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James Hillman once remarked that "depression stops you cold, sets you down, makes you damn miserable." You may be experiencing shame or stigma about seeking support. I would ask you to reconsider, to see reaching out as a sign of strength, a brave step. The fact is that one out of ten adults experience depressionůso, you stand on common ground. My therapy approach combines interpersonal, mindfulness and cognitive behavioral techniques. Sometimes integrating creative approaches such as sandplay and art therapy makes sense, or EMDR. At the outset, my aim is to help you successfully manage symptoms, improve your relationships and nurture social supports. Progress in these areas often yields a deeper understanding of the source of your despair. James Hillman also said that "depression opens the door to beauty of some kind." Overcoming depression is really about reclaiming--reclaiming life after a loss, a connection with self and others, a path towards a future narrative. It can be beautiful journey.

Depression is a terrible advisor. Depression whispers in your ear that you should "wait to feel better" before you do many of the things you'd normally do in your day or week. So you put off or cancel plans, don't listen to or return messages, neglect relationships, drop hobbies, use sleep or substances to numb out, and maybe don't even get out of bed some days. Here's the problem: depressed thinking is extreme, and slanted toward exactly the behaviors and thoughts that will keep you depressed. If you shrink your activities and relationships until you feel better, you actually are depriving yourself (and your brain) of the chance to experience some enjoyment or sense of accomplishment and hope. At first, it's true that you won't experience these good things as much as you would if you weren't depressed--but you may hardly experience any if you don't keep creating opportunities for a non-depressed response. This is why an important component of helping you with your depression is structuring your time to consistently include enjoyable and productive activities every day, no matter how small. When you're depressed, you have a whole bunch of tangled and distorted thoughts that help trigger the depression, but also thoughts that maintain the depression. There are very easy-to-learn tools for stepping back from your thinking just enough to get a handle on what's realistic vs. distorted thinking.

No one is happy all of the time and everyone feels sad or "blue" on occasion. It is perfectly normal to grieve over upsetting life experiences, such as a major illness, a death in the family, a loss of a job, or a divorce. These feelings of grief and sadness tend to lessen with the passing of time. However, if these feelings last for weeks or months, affecting major areas of your life, then something more serious may be going on. You may feel helpless, hopeless, overwhelmed, or blame yourself for having these feelings. When you feel depressed, you may see everything as your fault and not likely to ever get better. The good news is that depression is highly treatable and there are many things you can do to feel better. You do not have to suffer needlessly or feel ashamed about your feelings. Like anxiety, depression can be a warning signal that something in your life is wrong and needs attention. If rather than trying to escape your feelings, you face your feelings and really listen, you may discover what you really want and need to be happy. Happiness involves knowing what truly matters to you and actively pursuing itůit will not exist without your participation. What is happiness to you? Once you find things you enjoy, have a sense of accomplishment, identify your strengths, and use these strengths for a cause larger than yourself, you will likely feel much happier.

Depression, sadness, and the "blues" can take many different shapes and forms. When people begin treatment for depression they often feel hopeless, helpless, and like nothing can alleviate their excruciating emotional pain. I start by understanding more about what makes you feel down, and what has (and hasn't) helped, so that we can determine the best way to move forward. The good news about depression is that it is very treatable--there are multiple types of talk therapy that have been shown to be effective, and I can help you choose which approach will be the best fit for you. I establish a safe place for you to explore your depression, and for you to learn some valuable tools to start feeling better. You can leave this process feeling empowered, knowing you have the ability to improve your depression. There is hope--and seeking help is the best place to start.

There's a lot to be depressed about. Ironically, that can be difficult to fully appreciate if you have been focusing on "getting over" your depression. You may be so tired and low that you don't want to work on (or obsess about) it anymore, you just want it gone. Even if hopelessness and aching feel like they have no purpose, you can bet that they started for a good reason (although the initial reasons may have long since passed). Honoring the feeling in the right way is important: When we are feeling alone, wounded, unloved, or unworthy, we need--but we doubt--assurance that we are capable of finding meaning, connection, and hope. How can we feel these good things if the attitude we take toward our own pain is ridicule or anger? This is important: People don't want to be kind to a part of themselves they've come to hate. It can be very difficult to soften, to love, to open. That's partly why people stay depressed. Here's a nondepressing thought: Even if you have had therapy before and didn't find your way out, it's likely a problem with the fit with your therapist(s), not that you are an 'impossible case.' Trust me on that.

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Amy Stambuk, LCSW

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Elizabeth Nelson, Ph.D.
Irina Banfi-Mare, Psy.D.
Kristen Morrison, Ph.D.
Jason Seidel, Psy.D.
The Colorado Center
for Clinical Excellence