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Depression is a serious psychiatric disorder that afflicts millions of people. For many, depression makes getting through each day a difficult process. For others, however, it can be completely debilitating. Whether it’s mild or severe, it can significantly reduce your quality of life.

Fortunately, depression is also one of the most treatable disorders. While medication can help rebalance brain chemicals that help regulate mood, psychotherapy is generally the most effective way to attain lasting benefits.

If you’re like many individuals with depression, you tend to ruminate about your past while feeling hopeless regarding the future. This can keep you stuck in your depression. One type of therapy, known as solution focused brief therapy (SFBT), specifically targets this tendency. It offers a unique approach to treating depression by helping you look ahead to a future free from depression rather than looking at the past and the things that caused your depression. This makes it quite different from many types of psychotherapy in which significant time is spent delving deep into your past in order to understand the present.

Aptly Named

As the name implies, solution focused brief therapy helps you focus on finding solutions. The solutions that you discover during therapy will improve your mood and help you develop new skills. SFBT is often used in conjunction with other types of therapy as part of a comprehensive treatment program. This helps to reduce the impact that symptoms of depression may have on your overall treatment. Although it is sometimes called "solution focused therapy", the word "brief" is usually included in the name. This is because it’s a very short-term type of therapy, typically lasting only 12 to 16 sessions. In some cases, it may even be used for a single session.

How it Works

When SFBT is used to treat depression, your therapist will help you set goals that will help you achieve the future that you imagine. Your therapist will begin by asking a series of questions. These questions will help you determine what is truly important to you that you’ll be motivated to work towards achieving it.

For example, your therapist may ask you, "If you start your life free of depression on Monday morning, how will things be different?" Your response to that question will help the therapist determine appropriate goals for you, as well as what matters to you enough to motivate you to be successful. Your response may be something simple, but it seems unattainable to you. If you’re like many individuals, it will be something that you’ve had or felt in the past – before your depression interfered with your ability to participate in normal everyday activities or to gain joy from your experiences.

This process will also make you realize that there are actually positive things in your life – things that you might not be aware of. You see, when you suffer from depression it’s very easy to focus on all the negative things in your life – all the things that are wrong with it. You may feel insecure and incompetent, and have little hope of ever enjoying a future free from your depression.

However, just like everyone, you have had some successes in your life even though you may not realize it right now. Solutions focused therapy will help you have those "aha" moments when you being to recognize these successes. As a result, you’ll start to gain confidence and feel even more motivated (and confident) to move forward. Once you begin to recognize the many positive things in your life, you can use them to help you attain future goals.

Benefits in Drug and Alcohol Rehab

Solution focused brief therapy is often used in drug and alcohol treatment programs. It’s not uncommon at all for addicts to also suffer from depression. Unfortunately, if not treated concurrently, depression can prevent them from getting the most out of their rehabilitation. In many cases, dual diagnosis centers treat those suffering from both depression and addiction by addressing each condition separately. Solution focused brief therapy can help depressed addicts struggling with feelings of hopeless. Its future-oriented emphasis can help them feel more positive about themselves and develop a more positive attitude about rehab – which is a key factor in successful, lasting recovery.

When Depression Co-Occurs with Other Disorders

In addition to problems with addiction, depression also frequently co-occurs with other types of mental illness. Schizophrenia, in particular, is known to carry a higher risk of depression and related suicides. One of the biggest difficulties in treating these individuals is in getting them to take their medications regularly in order to keep their symptoms under control.

Depression can make them even less inclined to comply with their medication regimen. It can also increase their potential to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. Solution focused brief therapy can help with their symptoms of depression as well as their symptoms of schizophrenia by encouraging them to draw on their resources to improve their mood and create the desire to improve their circumstances.

Why It’s Effective

Since its introduction in the mid-1980s, research has consistently shown that solution focused therapy is effective in the treatment of depression and numerous other conditions. One of the primary reasons for its effectiveness is that it relies on resources that you already have within you. If you are suffering from depression, the motivation you can gain from just a few sessions of solution focused brief therapy can make a significant different in your overall treatment.


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