5 Unusual Therapies for Depression
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Think treating depression is a one-size-fits-all approach? Think again. For many people with depression, it can take weeks, months, or years (and a lot of trial and error) to find a treatment that works — and it’s often a combination of therapy and antidepressants.
“It might also take some time to work through whatever it is that is bothering you — there’s lots of unfinished business in people’s lives,” points out certified art therapist Matthew Bernier, MCAT, associate professor of health professions and psychiatry and behavioral sciences in the Graduate Art Therapy & Counseling Program at the Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk.
But while you’re working out that unfinished business, adding some not-so-run-of-the-mill therapies to your treatment plan may help. Here are five unconventional approaches you may want to incorporate into your treatment plan.
1. Presenting Puppet Therapy
If you saw Mel Gibson’s 2011 flick The Beaver — a film about a man who turns to a toy beaver to pull him out of the throes of depression — you probably had one thing on your mind: Could this really work?
In fact, puppets, dolls, and stuffed animals play a strong role in therapy for all age levels. “It’s easier to talk or play with a puppet than it is to talk to another person," Bernier notes. "Even though adults know the puppet is pretend, they can still go along with it.”
A report in The Journal of Mental Health Counseling looked at a case study of an 8-year-old boy who used a bug puppet during “narrative therapy.” Before the puppet came into play, he was quiet about his underlying issues; once he started using it, he was able to give voice to his problems.
Bernier has a stash of puppets readily available in his office and allows patients to select one that suits them — and some therapists take it a step farther, prescribing puppets with specific names and personalities.
2. The Healing Power of Art Therapy
Ready to let those creative juices flow? Artistic expression can help people connect with their depression and any underlying causes at a deeper level, says Bernier. He combines puppet therapy with art therapy by encouraging patients to create their own puppets using cast-off materials, such as empty soda bottles or old socks.
“There is a metaphor and great symbolism in using otherwise forgotten, cast-off, rejected materials transformed into something of great value,” he explains.
Since the American Art Therapy Association was established in 1969, many therapists have been trained in both art and therapy. Healing arts can include drawing, painting, and sculpting, or other creative methods of expression such as dance, drama, or music therapy. This approach helps people connect with their anger, shame, or guilt from trauma and may bring depression relief.
3. A Good Reason to Love Animal Therapy
Sometimes when you’re feeling down, the best companion is the one with four legs, fur, and a wet nose. In fact, spending time with pets has been shown to help people relax and ease their emotional distress, especially in vulnerable patients (such as seniors with dementia or children with autism). Animal therapy has even been recognized by the National Institute of Mental Health as a type of psychotherapy for treating depression and other mood disorders.
But keep this in mind: A therapy animal goes through specific types of training with its handler and will likely provide more depression relief than ordinary pet companions.
This article on 7 Health Benefits of Owning a Pet may interest you!
4. Primal Therapy: Relive Pain to Relieve Pain
Primal therapy, part of a group of treatments called psychodynamic therapy, involves accessing and reliving painful memories from the past so they no longer drive your emotions. This psychotherapy is often used with people who have experienced serious trauma.
There are few studies that compare the effectiveness of this approach with other more traditional depression treatments, like cognitive behavioral therapy or medication (the gold standards of depression treatments). Results are mixed, and the most recent research doesn’t suggest an advantage to primal therapy. Still, primal therapy could be an effective part of your depression treatment plan.
5. Vitamin D
Sue Penckofer, PhD, RN, a professor at the Loyola University Chicago School of Nursing in Maywood, Ill., has researched the use of vitamin D (which the body makes naturally from sunlight) in depression treatment and found that correcting vitamin D deficiency does provide some depression relief.How can you get enought vitamine D?
Sun: as long as you avoid sunburn, getting some midday sun unprotected for about 10 to 15 minutes a day is good for you. It will give you between 3,000 and 5,000 IUs of vitamin D3.
Food: make sure you add food sources of vitamin D3 to your daily diet. A serving of cooked wild salmon and mackerel provide roughly 350 IU vitamin D3 each. Sardines and tuna in oil provide about 225 IUs of vitamin D3 each. And one tablespoon of cod liver oil contains nearly 1,400 IUs of vitamin D3.
In this article on 10 Foods rich in Vitamin D you can get some ideas!
Supplement: if you don't get enough sunlight or don't eat enough food rich in vitamin D, talk to your doctor about whether vitamin D supplements might help your depression.
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My dog is a registered therapy dog visiting nursing homes. When I was depressed last November she was sensitive to my mood and cwme and laid next to me. Stroking her while she was laying close to me really helped.
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