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How Do Psychiatrists Treat Depression?

Depression is a mood disorder that causes prolonged feelings of sadness or disinterest. Sometimes referred to as clinical depression, the disorder can lead to a variety of emotional and physical issues. The symptoms of depression can make it difficult to complete day-to-day activities and can cause strain in personal relationships.

For individuals experiencing the symptoms of depression, reaching out for help can sometimes cause some anxiety. When scheduling their first appointment with a psychiatrist, many patients aren’t sure what to expect. Will I have to lie on a long couch? Do psychiatrists treat depression in the way that is portrayed in movies and television? How many sessions does it take to begin noticing a decrease in symptoms?

To help answer some of these common questions first-time patients have, we wanted to put together an overview of how psychiatrists treat depression to give you an idea of what how your potential first session, and subsequent sessions, would go.

The First Session

The first time that a patient with depression visits a psychiatrist the encounter starts not unlike one with any other medical provider, which is an conversation that allows the psychiatrist to get to know you, and get an understanding for your symptoms. A psychiatrist will typically begin by informing the patient about that everything they say remains confidential, unless the psychiatrist deems that something you say presents danger to yourself or another person. Then, a psychiatrist will begin asking you questions about your medical history, your day-to-day life, and your symptoms. And no, you most likely won’t be laying flat on a couch during these questions.

While some psychiatrists do have long couches for patient to lay down during sessions, the ‘shrink’s couch’ is a bit of a film trope. A psychiatrist wants a patient to be comfortable. Usually psychiatrists and their patients will both sit in chairs facing one another.

Hearing the patient describe their symptoms is an important first step for the psychiatrist to establish a baseline and to make sure that the symptoms of depression are not being caused by another condition. Depression and anxiety can be causes by medical conditions such as thyroid disease, infections, hormone abnormalities, and side effects to medication. Once the psychiatrist can rule out these causes, as well as other disorders such as ADHD, psychosis, and bipolar disorder, they begin narrowing in on creating a depression treatment plan.

How Psychiatrists Create Treatment Plans

When treating depression, psychiatrists can deploy a number of different treatment plans. Every individual patient possesses a unique medical and emotional history, as well as different range of symptoms and severity. All of these factors, and their severity, will inform the psychiatrist diagnosis and guide their treatment plan.

Most treatment plans broadly fall under three major categories of treatment.


Psychotherapy is a form of treatment that aims to treat depression psychologically, as opposed to medically with medications. Psychotherapy is also referred to as talk therapy or counseling, and is one of the more common treatment methods for depression. Psychotherapy provides patients with a supportive and empathetic environment to discuss their stressors and emotional concerns without fear of judgement.

Through the process of psychotherapy, a psychiatrist serves as a guide for patients to help them work through their symptoms with the aim that they are able to discover emotional connections, insights, and solutions that will help them manage their symptoms.

Within the psychotherapy umbrella, there are a lot of different strategies that a psychiatrist might use with a patient. Forms of psychotherapy include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Psychodynamic psychotherapy
  • Interpersonal psychotherapy
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy.


Psychopharmacology is a form of treatment that relies on prescribing medication to treat the symptoms of depression. Psychopharmacology is a treatment method that is used after a informative and collaborative conversation between the patient and the psychiatrist. Many patients enter into treatment with a wide array of preconceived beliefs concerning medication, both positive and negative, so part of the psychiatrist’s duty is to educate patients about the benefits, risks, and alternatives to all available and applicable treatment options.

Depending on the individual patient and the medication being used for treatment, the effects of the medication can take anywhere between a week and eight weeks to appear. When psychopharmacology is used to treat depression, the patient will continue to visit with their psychiatrist in subsequent sessions to discuss how they’re progressing with the medication, and if any modifications on the type of medication or dosage is required.

Lifestyle Changes

In some cases, neither psychopharmacology or psychotherapy are deployed by a psychiatrist, at least not right away, and instead lifestyle changes are recommended for treatment. The symptoms of depression often lead to decreased interest for one’s appetite, nutrition, exercise, socializing, and hobbies.

While it can be hard for a patient with depression to motivate themselves to pay more attention to these areas, sometimes a psychiatrist will encourage them to do so before entering into a different form of treatment. By entering into a normal routine of nutrition, exercise, socializing, and enjoyable activities or hobbies, sometimes a patient’s symptoms of depression will dissipate.

Visit Family Psychiatry and Therapy

If you or a loved one is experiencing the symptoms of depression, any one of the treatment methods we reviewed above could provide significant relief. To get started on your treatment, contact us today and schedule an appointment.

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Helene A. Miller / And Other Providers
Family Psychiatry and Therapy brings compassion, understanding, and skilled care to patients throughout New Jersey. Our team of mental health professionals focuses on providing a positive and uplifting experience that aids our patients in facing life’s toughest challenges.