How to Find Effective Depression Counselling in Downtown Vancouver, BC.
By Katherine Young, M.Ed, Registered Clinical Counsellor, Vancouver, BC.
Depression is a very common problem for thousands of people in the Vancouver area. There are hundreds of therapists and hundreds of different treatment modalities to choose from and frankly a lot of very partial information about how you can make the best choice.
Adding to the confusion, every person is unique and the genesis of each person’s depression is different. It’s really important to keep in mind that in selecting a certain type of therapy or a particular counsellor, treating only the obvious, external and surface symptoms of depression will likely not be enough to create long term relief.
Rather, in counselling, the client and therapist must work together to untangle the knot, discover how this particular depression is formed and work to release the deadening grip of the depression so that repressed feelings can flow more smoothly. At the end of effective counselling, there is new vitality and a client is empowered to take action in his or her life.
The following is a guide for clients and for readers in Vancouver to understand their depression and learn how to choose effective therapy. If you or someone you know is suffering with depression they may be experiencing debilitating symptoms they desperately need relief from. Recognizing the problem is the first step.
How Depression Feels:
- Low mood—sadness
- Loss of motivation
- Loss of enjoyment or pleasure
- Excessive guilt or worthlessness
- Social withdrawal
- Loss of energy
- Hypersomnia or insomnia
- Excessive self-criticism
- Indecisiveness and lack of concentration
- Changes in weight
- Suidical ideation and/or thoughts
In addition to treating the symptoms listed above, effective counselling addresses underlying causes of depression, thus uprooting the problem at its source and reducing the chance of relapse. In order to understand how counselling treatment works it is important to first understand what depression is, and how it is formed and maintained. Understanding how one creates their depression, learning about one’s personal process of how depression happens is a critical step in therapy. You can begin with some information.
What is Depression?
Depression is a symptom. It is a reaction to, and an attempt to mitigate some form of pain. Usually without knowing it, or intending to, people create depression for themselves when they use the mind to cut themselves off either from frightening or unpleasant feelings, or from compelling calls for action they find too scary, overwhelming or perhaps unfamiliar to handle. The results are extremely painful and unfortunately, a very common problem in this city.
How Depression is formed and maintained:
Often, instead of feeling raw anger and fear, betrayal, hurt, etc. and allowing oneself to process painful experiences, one elects instead to create a deadening where escape is available from the painful feelings that seem so immediate, intense and terrifying. People often fear that if they allow these feelings there will be no end to them or that the feelings will hurt them in some way. It is important to know that they are just feelings, and they do end. But here’s the rub—the result of deadening is even more pain—the pain of depression that is feeling dull, flat, numb, alienated and disconnected from self.
At some point, the depression becomes so thick and so familiar that people, alienated from their primary feelings, experiences and drives, no longer know why they feel so lost. Often there is an accompanying flood of self-critical thoughts and the depression is compounded. If there is a tendency to blame this state of mind on others, on biology, the rain in Vancouver, life itself, god, and other things we are powerless to change*then the door to the cage closes and we no longer knows how to get out.
Clients in Vancouver can do the same thing with action that we know we need to take but are afraid of doing. Sometimes we have very strong drives to live our lives more fully and deeply. We may need to make changes to:
- Contribute something to our culture
- Create a work of art
- Change careers
- Leave a relationship
- Take more risks
- Pursue an interest
- Expressive ourselves more fully
- Correct a wrong we have done
- Stand up for ourselves
- Participate in community in Vancouver
- Go back to school
Even though we know what we need to do, we are afraid and even blocked from our own inner knowing by our fears. In order to restore some sense of equanimity it is common to split off our knowing, out of consciousness in order to be rid of the related feelings of fear of failure, inadequacy, rejection or what have you. We literally split off our strong internal drive, our need to live a better life and we become divided, fragmented and depressed. This is a very confusing state. One no longer knows what one wants, nor has the felt sense, in some cases, of knowing who one is. The feeling is of being lost. People in this state often, finally, look for counselling, relieved at least that there is hope for a way forward. Then the search begins for effective counselling.
How counselling works:
We’ve all felt the pain of the slings and arrows of love in our families of origin, our peers and in our romantic relationships.
- Past traumas
- Interpersonal attacks
- Unhealthy family dynamics
- Loss of relationships or loved ones
- Family of origin issues
So, often, our response to these experiences is to close down, feel less, love less, live life less. In effective counselling one can process past experiences like these ones, while allowing the attendant feelings to move through the body, freeing up tremendous amounts energy that was previously trapped in the fight against one’s own impulses and feelings.
The client and counsellor work together to understand the situation with clarity and integrate the experience with compassion. Once a client has learned how he/she constructed a depression, she can learn to move forward as a free and active agent in her own life instead of being controlled by chronic, psychic pain, which was generated in the past and maintained in the present.
But here’s the thing, in recognizing how the depression is constructed, client and counselor must also recognize that the depression is right in a sense, or at least it has its own logic and its own set of priorities… Life does throw outrageous fortune our way. The experiences some of us have been through are horrifying and sad. People can be unkind; the world is polluted; something is wrong in our life; the destruction of nature and building of strip malls is ugly and to refer again to our favorite bard, something is rotten in the state of Denmark!
Depression can be a protest in the face of ugliness, cruelty, chaos and/or a protest against personal but urgent concerns such as a meaningless job or mistreatment by others. Sometimes depression is a protest against a situation we could accept and ultimately choose to allow in our lives.
Counselling requires incredible compassion and attendance to what is troubling. Depression can be a demand for love, beauty, meaning, intimacy, care and deep and tender witness to pain that has never been properly listened to or even felt.
Equally important is learning to hear and attend to callings from the future. Working with a counsellor, a client can allow himself to move forward because he has learned to listen to intuitions about what to move toward. In counselling, clients can learn skills and methods to help them consistently act, in spite of fear, from their deepest desires and most profound values, a calling that is not fleeting, shallow and changeable, but more meaningful and more inclusive of the needs and concerns of others and the world. At the conclusion of this kind of psychotherapy clients can choose to live a more purposeful life with more energy, vitality and meaning.
A Good Counsellor:
A good counsellor will understand how to identify and work with depression. The right counsellor for you will be someone you feel comfortable with, someone you connect to, and someone who you feel is honest with you, while also being empathetic. Studies prove that the most important ingredient determining successful outcomes to therapy is a good relationship between client and counsellor so choose someone you feel you can trust.
There have been countless studies proving that Counselling is effective for treating depression. For those people living in the Vancouver area who have depression, the dullness, apathy and low mood are a heavy kind of suffering for which there is an alternative. Counselling offers another way, through the feelings, towards the clarity of increased consciousness and the exhilaration of an audacious life.
*Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a depression that is caused by hormonal changes in the body due to the lack of light in fall and winter months. Some people living in Vancouver may be affected by this condition. Counselling can be effective in treating SAD.