Therapy For Depression

Depression is a common and crippling mood disorder that can change how you think, feel, and function in life. Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and worthlessness can be intense and unrelenting. In its most acute form depression can lead to suicide – the scariest aspect of the disease. Remember, depression can be deadly as we’ve seen most recently in the suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. If you are feeling like you want to hurt yourself, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

Something important to know is that depression is not a of lack of willpower. It is a disease of the brain. Many clients come to me feeling dejected and blamed for their own illness. Therapy for depression can help you understand that this is not your fault and you are NOT FAILING AT LIFE!

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Depression can present differently from person to person, but there are some common signs. Some of these signs may be part of life’s normal ups and downs but if you have five or more of the symptoms listed below and it’s lasted for two weeks or more, it is important you seek professional help.

Starting with depression therapy:

Common signs of depression

Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. A negative perspective – nothing will ever get better and there’s nothing you can do to change your circumstances.

Loss of interest in daily activities. You don’t enjoy the activities you once did such as pastimes, social activities, or sex. You’ve lost your ability to feel joy and pleasure.

Appetite or weight changes. Weight loss or weight gain

Sleep changes. Either insomnia, especially waking in the early hours of the morning, or oversleeping/napping during the day.

Anger or irritability. Feeling agitated, restless, or even violent. Your tolerance level is low, your temper short, and everything and everyone gets on your nerves.

Loss of energy. Feeling fatigued, lethargic, and physically drained. Your whole body may feel heavy, and even small tasks are exhausting or take longer to complete.

Self-loathing. Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt. You harshly criticize yourself for perceived faults and mistakes.

Reckless behavior. You engage in escapist behavior such as substance abuse, compulsive gambling, reckless driving, or dangerous sports.

Concentration problems. Trouble focusing, making decisions, or remembering things.

Unexplained aches and pains. An increase in physical complaints such as headaches, back pain, aching muscles, and stomach pain.

Overcoming Depression: Things to do right now

1) Pray! Prayer is a powerful anecdote to negative thinking patterns. It can help in rewiring your brain by powering up your neuronal connections that atrophy when you are depressed. You don’t have to be religious to benefit. Developing one’s spirituality can be powerful in overcoming depression. A simple prayer I’ve found profoundly beneficial is the following:

May I be filled with loving kindness
May I be well
May I be peaceful and at ease
May I be happy

2) Restorative Yoga: As a depression therapist in Santa Monica, CA with a background in yoga, I often encourage clients to try a special type of yoga called Restorative yoga which is more calming and less active than vinyasa yoga. These classes are a little more difficult to find but they are out there. I also recommend a book that helped me through my depressive symptoms: Judith Lasater’s, Relax and Renew. Exercise is often recommended to address depression and if you can go to the gym, that’s great but many of my clients have trouble even getting out of bed in the morning. Restorative yoga can be done at home lying on the floor. All you need is a yoga mat, bolster, blankets, and an eye bag.

Try this at Home:

The Cocoon. I have coined this pose since it involves wrapping yourself from shoulders to toes in a warm, cozy blanket reminiscent of a wrap used with infants. Start with the bolster under your knees to support your lower back. Place a blanket around your feet and legs and “tuck yourself in.” Work your way up your body until you are tucked in snuggly up to your shoulders. Put on your eye bag to block out light. Place your arms by your sides below your heart with palms facing up. BREATHE deeply and relax. Spend as much time here that you need. When ready move the bolster under your sacrum (lower back) elevating your hips. Hang out here for a while. This is called an inversion and has a cooling and calming effect. Then, when ready, move the bolster under your mid to upper back. The bottom edge of the bolster should be touching the base of your shoulder blades. Breath into your chest and allow the chest to open and expand. Send yourself love and acceptance!

Depression counseling Santa Monica, CA | Therapist for depression

While you may not have the most dangerous form of suicidal ideation (really intending to hurt yourself, have a plan and the means to carry it out) suicidal ideation can also show up as feelings of not wanting to go on. You may say to yourself, “I don’t want this life anymore.” This too is suicidal ideation. If this is happening, please tell your depression therapists right away. It’s better to start treatment now rather than later as things can get worse. As my dad used to tell me: Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

Depression Therapist Santa Monica, CA: Depression Causes

Causes for depression fall into two main categories: biological and environmental. Biological causes could be related to genetics, a result of a medical condition, or an imbalance in brain chemistry. Environmental causes include external events that create stress such as feeling overwhelmed at school or work, stress in a personal relationship or friendship, financial worry, or an emotional trauma such as a death in the family.

Sometimes therapy for depression leads us back to our upbringing or the way we were parented. We can all recall events from our past that may have contributed to our stress as a child or young adult. Sometimes we remember these events fully and sometimes we do not. Exploring the past in therapy can sometimes help us recall important things we forgot and allow us the opportunity to work through them more consciously. Oftentimes, clients describe past events and are subsequently surprised it can be considered “trauma” having significant, even catastrophic effects in adulthood.

Many people have dealt with adverse life events by “just getting through it.” These feelings don’t just go away, they stay frozen in the nervous system waiting to be massaged through like a knotted muscle. Therapy can help you feel these feelings more fully and release the symptoms that served as a red flag warning. Many clients have seen a decrease in depression when allowing themselves to feel grief, sorrow, or anger from years ago. This process will help you gain compassion for yourself and others. I like to call this work the “reparenting” phase of therapy. By attending to our emotional needs, we are able to be our own best parent and move from “That’s just how it was” to “Wow, that was really tough and I’m proud of myself for surviving it.”

As a licensed Depression Therapist in Santa Monica, CA, I am confident therapy can help. Mental illness can be frustrating and baffling. No one should have to go through it alone. This is why I’m here to guide you towards a better quality of life–maybe even better than you imagined! What if I told you tending to your feelings was the key to improving your life?

Depression therapy: what to expect

There are a variety of popular methods in overcoming depression but the ones I find most effective are Mindfulness techniques, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Psychodynamic Therapy, and Narrative Therapy. I tailor these research-based techniques to address individual client needs and will oftentimes use them in combination. Mindfulness techniques teach breath and body awareness and are the foundation of spritual practices such as yoga and meditation. I find these techniques useful in that they release trauma in the body. Psychodynamic therapy is a way of exploring events in one’s past, usually childhood, which could have contributed to the sadness you are experiencing today. CBT techniques offer ways to “restructure” your core belief system to promote a more compassionate, growth-oriented concept of Self. Narrative therapy empowers people by letting them know they aren’t their depression or the problems they face; the problem is the problem. By separating one’s identity from this ‘problem saturated story’ one can discover strengths in oneself and trajectories of behavior that manage life challenges and create a more empowered narrative.

Depressive Disorders

A depressive disorder is a condition that involves the body, mood, and thoughts. It disables motivation and interferes with normal functioning of daily life. It typically causes pain both to the person experiencing the mood disturbance and those who care about him or her.

A depressive disorder is not the same as a passing blue mood—by definition, the symptoms must be present for at least two weeks. Nor is it a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be willed or wished away. Depression tends to be episodic, with bouts lasting weeks or months. Although symptoms tend to remit spontaneously over time, some form of treatment is important to reduce the likelihood of recurrent episodes. Appropriate treatment can help most people who suffer from depression.


Is depression curable?

This is a hot topic question and the “answer” to how to cure depression really depends on you and your individual circumstance. Generally speaking, clients experience improvements ranging from full eradication of their symptoms to more effective management of symptoms so they are less disruptive to their life. I like to use the word “recovery” as opposed to “cure” in describing depression treatment as it looks different for everyone.

Can depression be treated with therapy alone?

Yes, however I do encourage clients to pair therapy with lifestyle changes such as eating well, exercise, and other forms of self care. I also recommend working with primary care physicians to determine if there is a medical condition contributing or causing the depression. Sometimes primary care doctors are rushed and don’t have the time to pick up on the subtler biological issues that could be affecting their patient’s moods. This is why I’ve gotten in the habit of recommending Naturopathic doctors as a addition. I’ve found consulting a naturopathic MD can help address things like hormonal imbalances, thyroid imbalances and the like by offering natural, bioidentical options that are equally as effective as synthetic. Sometimes your body isn’t producing enough of something and supplements can assist with that. A naturopathic doctor can work in collaboration with therapy.

I don’t prescribe medication but in some specific cases medication can be beneficial and I will recommend a psychiatric asssessment. Therapy and medication can go hand in hand in overcoming depression. If you already have a psychiatrist you like, I can join forces with her and collaborate on your treatment. Two heads are always better than one!

Why go to therapy for depression? Can’t family and friends help?

Oftentimes, family and friends can be helpful but there comes a time when you need an unbiased professional dedicated to you and your individual healing journey. Sometimes helpfulness can come in the guise of unsolicited advice. This can be the most frustrating for sufferers because it DOES NOT help. Rather, it makes it seem as if depression is a matter of just finding the right thing to DO or even worse, is something we can control with will power. I am here to tell you depression is not a of lack of willpower. It is a disease of the brain. Many clients come to me feeling dejected and blamed for their own illness. Usually what I find is that few people in their life are properly informed on mental illness. This is why I encourage you to seek therapy for depression. I want you to get the validation, resources and treatment you need in order to get back on your feet. I know there are many depression therapists to choose from but I am confident I can help you. Please feel free to call for a free 15 minute consultation.


Stefani Reitter, LMFT, 310-625-0572

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