October 25, 2019

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Haley Jakobson

What Therapists Want You To Know About Depression

We asked our therapists how they explain depression to their patients.
“Depression feels forever and all-encompassing, but it’s not. Start scratching the edges of the dark, and let even the tiniest pinpricks of light guide you out.”
— Emily K. Fitton


For #depressionawarenessmonth we published an article where 100 people told us what depression feels like to them. The answers were raw, powerful, and for anyone who has ever experienced depression - affirming of what can often feel like a nameless, faceless disease. We took that list and sent it to our therapists, and asked them how they might talk about depression to a new patient. Just like every person describes and experiences their depression differently, every therapist has a different understanding and approach for navigating depression with their clients. Every single therapist wanted y’all to know that you don’t have to experience depression alone, and that you do not need to continue suffering. Therapy is one of the most effective tools for alleviating depression and creating coping options for wobbly moments. If you’re interested in starting your therapy journey, head over to our personalized questionnaire to find your perfect match! We all lose our footing sometimes, and we all deserve a hand to pull us back up.

Here’s what our therapists had to say:

“Ah! There’s so much I want to say to you all, from my heart and from my clinical experience. Depression. I know it well. What I most want you to know about depression is that there are pathways out of it.

It feels forever and all-encompassing, but it’s not. Start scratching the edges of the dark, and let even the tiniest pinpricks of light guide you out:

  • Make a deal with yourself: “Just do one good thing. Just one.” Pick something small, doable, and moderately meaningful. Do it, then acknowledge yourself for doing it. Then do another. Acknowledge that. Lather, rinse, repeat. By the time you get to your third good thing, you can feel the depression further behind you. I had to figure this out myself, but it was advice I wish someone had given me.
  • Still the critical voice. Seriously, yes you can. At some point you get to say to that internal task-master critic, “Shut the f--- up. Enough tearing me down. How are you the authority? I’m OK! Back off.” Try it, then let yourself feel good about it.
  • A good friend gave me great advice one day when I was drowning in depression. She said, “Remember this is temporary.” It was like her gently shaking me awake. I felt such relief that I wouldn’t feel that bad forever. I flashed on moments when indeed I hadn’t been depressed. It was just enough light and air to be able to carry on.
  • Another thing I want you to know about depression is that even though we haven’t met, I care. I want every person who struggles with it to be free of it. It really helps to find someone who will walk with you on your journey out of it.”

— Emily K. Fitton

“A lot of people experiences a spectrum of depression, where it comes in different forms and shapes. It may be reflected in how they perceive themselves in relation to others, it may be observable in their behaviors that implies sadness. I validate my client’s feelings to let them know that it’s real, and it counts. I provide psychoeducation that feelings are fluid, and we can learn to attune to them to see what our emotions are telling us, but that during this process all our feelings are always valid. I explore how early childhood plays a role with their current day depression, what depression means to them, what did they learn about emotions and about self soothing. Sometimes depression comes from what we internalized about ourselves from our environment, and that includes early parental interactions. I validate that we aren’t here to blame parents, but early attachments and interpretations of the world does get internalized and we want to work to process that, to see how it is affecting us today, and together how we can make that change. If my client is able to see that I can be patience and be there with them in this process, they start with a reparative relationship in our sessions that had a ripple effect to the relationship with themselves and to others around them, allowing for stronger awareness and connections.”

— Shama Goklani

"Sometimes with depression we feel that it has always been and will always be this hard. But our feelings are always changing, and learning to notice even the subtle changes in our mood can help us regain hope of larger changes too, because we can see and know that no one feeling lasts forever.”

— Sarah Hartzell

“You are not alone.  Depression is one of the most common mental health concerns, and it is real.  It causes real suffering, and can impact a person in all aspects of their life. Your depression is not your fault, and it’s not a moral failing.

Depression has multiple causes, many of which are not within your control. Depression is treatable.  There are numerous effective treatments for depression. Depression can be seen as a dysregulation in one or more aspects of your life:  physical, emotional, social, or spiritual.   And because it’s related to all of these areas, the solution also lies in these places.  For example, isolation is a common aspect of depression.  Did the person become depressed because they were isolated, or did they start to isolate because they were depressed?  The answer is irrelevant, but the solution – more social involvement – is part of the cure.  

Form a therapeutic alliance. Finding a caring therapist who can empathize with you is the first, and most important step when seeking treatment for depression.  The connection with your therapist is more important that any specific therapy technique or modality.”

— Jay Sandys

“Depression is the body’s way of protecting itself from being overwhelmed by disturbing emotions. It’s an adaptation that may have short-term benefits, but over time it takes on a life of its own and becomes maladaptive.”

— Dean Olsher

“What I want people to know about depression is that it is one of the minds many responses to painful feelings.

It is a deep rooted fear, significant loss, embedded shame, or a persistent disappointment. Depression sometimes is protecting us from feeling something else, something more that we are not yet ready or able to feel.


— Raina Murphy

“Depression is a disease that disconnects you from yourself and from others.

It can manifest in ways that are not what people necessarily expect; anger or irritability instead of sadness for example, but what I find is always there is that on some level people blame themselves for it and this blame and the guilt and shame that follow are what propel the downward spiral. Depression is also very treatable and there are many, many treatment options out there. Working with a good therapist who can help you identify and correct negative thought patterns and guide your treatment is the first step in reconnecting to the world.”

— Erin Brienza

“What I want people to know about depression is that it has seasons.

There are light and airy Springs, where the air is just right and the sun feels good on the skin. There are brutally cold and dark winters, where you feel as if you’re suffocating underneath five feet of snow. There are scorching hot summers, where you’d hate to leave the AC for a beach day, even when it looks like everyone else is having fun. And there are crisp autumns, where the brilliant colors are so bright that you feel the hope fill your lungs. These seasons are what brings beauty to the healing of depression that isn’t always picturesque. Everyone has seasons, some are just stronger than others. You are not broken. You are a wonderfully made ecosystem that sustains life.”

— Shelby Remillard

We hope these responses were helpful! It is our mission to show y’all that every therapist out there is unique and different, just like you. At MyWellbeing, we humanize the process of finding a therapist by focusing on your individual needs first and logistics second. Our matchmaking process is meant to alleviate a lot of the stress of the search, because we know how overwhelming it is to get help when you feel helpless. If you’re in NYC and interested in giving therapy a try, check out our questionnaire. Big thanks to our contributing therapists for their thoughtful words of wisdom and helpful ideas, and if one of the therapist’s referenced above really spoke to you, go head and tap their name to check out their MyWellbeing profile!

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About the author

Haley Jakobson is a writer of plays, poetry, and creative non-fiction. In her writing Haley explores mental health and wellness, sex and trauma, queerness, and bodies. When she isn’t scribbling on the subway, she is hanging out with the MWB team as their Digital Content Manager, and acting as the Artistic Director and co-founder of Brunch Theatre Company, an inclusive platform for emerging theatre artists to join the conversation. A poet in the millennial era, Haley reaches an audience of 11k+ readers on her instagram page. Haley lives in Brooklyn and is a gemini.

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