Last updated: 4 January 2021
This article covers:
– What types of therapies are involved?
– What types of professionals are involved?
– The journey of recovery from depression
What types of therapies are involved?
Psychological therapies are important when treating depression. It can really help the child or young person to learn the skills to fight off the depressive symptoms. There are different types of therapies that can be involved. These can include but are not limited to: cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) and supportive counselling. These will be discussed below.
While other therapies can also be helpful, there is strong research evidence that supports the use of CBT and IPT for treating depression in children and young people.
Cognitive behavioural therapy
CBT is a type of talk-therapy that focuses on how we think and act and how this affects how we feel. CBT can take anywhere between 6-20 sessions, depending on the severity of the depression and the child or young person’s age.
The idea behind CBT with children and young people is that they get to talk about their feelings and learn new skills, which they can use to fight off the depressive symptoms. This all takes place in an environment of safety that the therapist is able to create for the child or young person.
The child or young person will learn how to manage the thoughts and actions that keep the depression going. With a young child, the therapist might focus on these by using stories, games, play and pictures to help the child to engage.
The therapist always finds it useful to involve other family members in the process of treatment. This is because family members also play a part in influencing the child or young person on a day-to-day basis. So, if the therapist can get the family on board, there are greater chances of success.
Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) is a type of talk-therapy that focuses on the child or young person and their relationships, as a way to manage the depression. IPT can take anywhere between 12-16 sessions depending on the severity of the depression and the child or young person’s age.
The idea behind IPT is that relationships are always involved in the course of depression. So by helping relationships to get better, the depression will also get better.
The child or young person will develop an understanding of how their relationships affect the way they feel. They will learn the skills that will help their relationships to improve. These might include communication skills, conflict resolution, problem-solving and other relational skills.
During IPT, the therapist always finds it useful to involve other family members. This is because relationships with family members are the most important relationships in the life of the child or young person. Some session of IPT will involve other family members as well.
Supportive counselling is a type of talk-therapy that focuses mainly on creating a safe space for the child or young person to talk about their difficulties. It is different from the other therapies because it doesn’t follow a set of rules.
The idea behind supportive counselling is that by simply providing a safe space for the child or young person to talk about and explore their struggles with depression, they will begin to feel better.
The therapist will provide encouragement, reassurance, advice and will mostly listen attentively. The child or young person can feel safe to let out the emotions that they may not be able to express with others. Within this safe space, the therapist will team up with the child or young person to think about helpful ways to move forward.
The therapist might also find it helpful to include other family members, especially if there is a young child involved. Other family members will also discuss ways that they can help the child to get better from depression.
What types of professionals are involved?
There are different professionals that may or may not be involved throughout the treatment process of depression for children and young people. These might include counsellors, psychotherapists, doctors/psychiatrist, mental health nurses, support workers and social workers. These terms might be confusing, but the main difference is in the training that each of these professionals have received.
In the UK, there is not much of a distinction made between counsellor or psychotherapist. Both of these professionals provide therapy. However, there are some slight differences between these two professional terms. These are outlined below.
Counsellors: Counselling is focused on helping people with what they need right now. Compared to psychotherapists, counsellors tend to have had a shorter training and they help people deal with their issues on a more short-term basis. There may be school-based counsellors available that children and young people can approach at their own school, if they feel they need support with their difficulties. Here at Mindsum, we have counsellors that are available to provide support.
Psychotherapists: Psychotherapy training tends to be longer. Psychotherapists can also give counselling but their approach to talk-therapy is more in-depth, exploring the history and causes of certain behaviours and emotional issues. The psychotherapist will then treat the depression in this specialized way. Here at Mindsum, we have psychotherapists that are available to provide support.
It doesn’t mean that one professional is better than the other. All professionals in this field go through intensive training before they begin to practice. Also, many counsellors seek additional training throughout their careers.
There are also doctors and psychiatrists that can be involved in the treatment of depression for children and young people. There are more obvious differences between these two professional terms.
Doctors: These are professionals that are trained in medicine. This will likely be the family GP, who might find it necessary to prescribe certain medications that might help the depression, especially if the depression is quite severe.
Psychiatrist: These are professionals that are also trained in medicine. However, they also specialized in the field of psychiatry. So they are able to provide consultation and medication for a wide range of mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, psychosis, bipolar affective disorder and so on.
Mental health nurses: Nurses trained in mental health might also be involved with the child or young person. If the child or young person is in a hospital setting or is seen by a crisis team due to self-harm or suicide, a mental health nurse might help to give treatment by administering medication.
Support workers: Workers trained in helping vulnerable people to live better lives might also be involved with the child or young person. This might be within a community setting or a crisis situation. Their role is to provide emotional and practical support (e.g. helping parents to cope, helping with paperwork, making child-care arrangements).
Social workers: Workers trained in protecting vulnerable individuals might also be involved with the child or young person. This might also be within a community or a crisis situation. Social workers will problem-solve and organise the right support for the child or the young person to ensure their protection.
The journey of recovery from depression
The journey of recovery from depression can look different for each child or young person and depending on the approach that the counsellor or psychotherapist uses. But there are some things that are expected when going through therapy for depression.
This is an important phase, where the counsellor or psychotherapist will get a feel of what is going on with the child or young person. The therapist might try to identify the severity of the depression, along with other important background information. The therapist will ask some questions, including certain questions about the possibility of self-harm or suicide. This will help to create a full picture of what is going on and to know what type of treatment will be most helpful.
These sessions will take place with a time and regularity that suits the child or young person and their parents. An important aspect of the therapy session is the relationship that the counsellor or psychotherapist will build with the child or young person. This will create a safe space that will encourage them to talk about their feelings. The child will be able to develop a better understanding of their feelings and learn helpful ways to tackle the depression.
This can be an important part of treatment for depression, especially when having CBT. This is because depression affects everyday situations in the child or young person’s life. So, homework tasks will really help the child or young person to develop a sense of achievement and mastery over the depression.
Progress and setbacks
When having treatment for depression, there will be progress and there may be setbacks. For example, because of the depression itself, a child or a young person might lack motivation and find it hard to believe that therapy will help. It is important not to feel discouraged when this happens, as these types of setbacks can be quite normal when dealing with depression. These situations provide opportunities to discover new ways to move forward together with the therapist.
The counsellor or psychotherapist will eventually prepare the child, young person and parents for the end of therapy. This is a very important phase, because it is vital for the child or young person to become confident in coping with difficult feelings without relying too much on the professional. The end of therapy will take place once the child or young person has made a lot of progress or has completely recovered from depression. The child or young person will leave therapy with many skills that they can use without the help of the therapist.
There might be an agreement with the counsellor or psychotherapist to have a follow-up meeting. This is to check how the child or young person is coping. If they are doing well, there will be no need for more support. But if they continue to have challenges with depression or any other issues, this will be an opportunity to have extra support.
List of useful resources
To read our information on depression, you can click here to access the link.
Introduction to counselling and psychotherapy
The British Association for the Counselling Professions (BACP) have a useful document on different aspects of therapy. To read more, you can click here to access the link.
Mental health recovery
Mind offers some helpful information on their website on what recovery from a mental illness can look like. You can click here to access the link.