The Safe Place: Getting Help To Fight Your Depression
To connect with another human on the deepest levels can be an invaluable and immeasurable weapon in the fight against depression.
By Faust Ruggiero, M.S.
Depression is battle you cannot wage yourself. This life stealing condition robs you of your self-esteem and connects with the parts of your life that may include guilt, shame, and poor self-worth. All too often, people with depression feel unworthy of help and that no one really wants to listen to their problems.
The communication issues inherent in a life shrouded by depression are twofold:
1. People do not understand enough about depression and how it makes you feel. This can create a communication gap that makes you believe people are not interested.
2. Depression makes it difficult to communicate what you are feeling, since it robs you of your ability to accurately define your thoughts and emotions.
These two points suggest the need for someone who can understand you when you try to tell others how you feel and who will not judge or dismiss you. Your experience with a counselor, someone who has the expertise to help you define what you need to do to treat your depression can be life-changing. The time you spend with your counselor takes place in an environment that feels safe. That is so important for you. A counselor will design and implement a treatment program specifically tailored to you and will be willing, in step-by-step fashion, to support you as you begin to work with the new processes you are learning.
You cannot alleviate the problems that depression causes on your own. You know you are going to need help. A network of people to be there to support you is absolutely necessary. They can help you gather information and assist you in making some decisions, but they cannot and should not be asked to help you solve this problem. So, the next decision for you to make, if possible, with the help of your network, is who your personal counselor is going to be?
Finding Your Person: Matching the Need with the Resources
Your first order of business is to make a list of your needs. These are the problems that need to be solved. This will give you the information about what you need to change, what symptoms need to be addressed, and what the areas of expertise your prospective counselor should possess. The Fix Your Depression Handbook provides a list of depression types and their symptoms.
Your counselor should possess formal training in psychology or counseling. In some cases, you may want someone with a medical background, especially if medication is going to be in the picture. Of most importance is your prospective counselor’s understanding of and expertise in treating various types of depression. This is where it gets a little sticky. Many therapists, though they may be professional counselors or even licensed psychologists, may not have an in-depth background in treating of this life depleting condition. Depression on a level that drastically affects your life demands the attention of a professional with a solid background in its treatment—all aspects of it.
In some cases, you may be more comfortable with someone who is older and perhaps a bit more seasoned in their profession. In other cases, gender may be a concern for you. If you are part of the LBGTQ community, you may want someone who understands your life dynamics. The location of the counselor’s office and whether insurance is accepted are also legitimate concerns. Though these are all important factors, the most important being this professional needs to have is a thorough understanding of depression, and the ability to treat your depression. Everyone's depression is the same.
Today, many people receive counseling through online video platforms. Some conditions may be well suited for online counseling. For the most part, however, depression tends to require a more in-depth approach. This does not mean online approaches cannot work. However, do keep in mind that if you receive counsel from your home, you are counselling from the very environment that you are depressed in. The person you are dealing with does not have the opportunity to see your body language and other important inflections that often provide information that is vital to the counseling situation. If you have no other option, it can certainly be advantageous for you, but do look for in-office counseling sessions at least part of the time.
As far as their qualifications are concerned, try to stay away from people who have coaching certificates and other short-term educational programs to attempt to treat your depression. Many life coaches do very good work, but depression is such an involved condition that you want to know the person counseling you has an in-depth training of the dynamics and treatment of depression. They should also have an in-depth knowledge of every component of depression. Sometimes the symptomology between depression types can overlap. Your counselor should know where you are physically, emotionally, and intellectually, how the program is working for you at all times, and when and how to make changes, when necessary.
Another important question to ask your potential counselor is what kind of network they use. They should be affiliated or at least have working relationship with a hospital, rehabilitation center, and other inpatient facilities, should those be needed. They should have arrangements with primary care physicians, a psychiatrist, and a pharmacist, if possible. Efficient communication between other practitioners is essential.
The 7 Keys to Selecting Your Person
1. Make sure your counselor has an expertise in the dynamics and treatment of depression.
2. Match your counselor’s abilities with your needs. Let the members of others who may be supporting you help you with this.
3. If possible, try to see your counselor in their office. If this is not possible, make sure that they can treat your depression online. Make them commit to and explain how they will accomplish that.
4. Ask them if they are members of professional association like the American Psychological Association or the American Counseling Association. You may even be able to verify their credentials through these associations. A good source for qualified psychologists is on the Psychology Today website.
5. Ask your primary care physician and other members of your network if they know anything about the counselor you are considering. You may even include your primary care physician or other members of your network in your search process and in your decision regarding which counselor to choose.
6. Make sure your counselor has their own professional network in case you need referrals that are beyond the scope of their level of expertise.
7. Be willing to schedule a consultation with a counselor you are considering. If you feel comfortable with them, that is a good first step. Ask them how they plan to help you through your depression. Make sure you feel good about what you are experiencing in that first consultation.
Make sure your counselor has their own professional network in case you need referrals that are beyond the scope of their level of expertise. Be willing to schedule a consultation with a counselor you are considering without the commitment of continuing the counseling immediately. If you feel comfortable with them, that is a good first step. Ask them how they plan to help you through your depression. Make sure you feel good about what you are experiencing in that first consultation.
Here is a short checklist of the questions you should ask a counselor during your first consultation.
• Can you show me your counseling credentials?
• Can you tell me about your expertise regarding the dynamics and treatment of depression?
• Do you have affiliations with other professionals in case I need services in different areas?
• Do you also specialize in family counseling, and can I bring members of my support team with me from time to time?
• Are you available for me in your office as well as in virtual counseling sessions?
• Are you available during off hours in case I need contact you during an emergency?
• Do you take my insurance (if you have insurance), or is there a sliding scale for payments?
Depression is one of those conditions that can keep you isolated and lost in a dark, motionless world. Having a network to help you through your treatment process is crucial, but just as crucial is the need for your own personal safe person. Including the services of a professional counselor can help you address symptoms related to your depression, but it also gives you your personal safe space with someone you can trust to help you approach those parts of your life that may be difficult to discuss with others.
When you are setting up your network to help you through your depression, never forget that this is your life you are talking about. Including a professional counselor who is always going to be there for you, understands what you are thinking and feeling, and knows how to take you through the treatment and eventually recovery process from depression is essential. You have the right to obtain the absolute best care available. Accept nothing less. Depression can make you feel ugly and broken. You are not. You are beautiful, and it's time to feel good about yourself. Step out of the darkness and let someone else be part of your life. Begin the process of trusting another human being so you may shed light in what has been a dark place to live.