Counseling and Dysthymia: Four Excellent Treatment Approaches

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Symptoms of Dysthymia

Before we get to dysthymia counseling options, it’s important to explain exactly what this mental disorder entails. Dysthymia is a form of clinical depression that lasts for at least two years. The length of time and the severity of the symptoms makes dysthymia different from major depressive disorder. In dysthymia, you experience a persistently low, hopeless mood for most of the time, and experience physical symptoms such as a loss of appetite, low energy levels, poor concentration or insomnia.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a form of short-term psychotherapy that shows promise as one of the most beneficial methods of dysthymia counseling. According to Harvard Health Publications, cognitive-behavioral therapy works to correct self-defeating, negative thought patterns, one of the common symptoms of dysthymia. Most people who suffer from this disorder have an incorrect, pessimistic view of the world and themselves, along with low levels of self-esteem, which can impede their ability to ever fully recover. In cognitive-behavioral therapy, you learn new ways of coping and develop more positive, realistic thoughts in collaboration with a trained cognitive-behavioral therapist.

Interpersonal Therapy

Interpersonal therapy is another beneficial form of short-term dysthymia counseling, according to a January 18, 1995 article in the New York Times. In interpersonal therapy, which usually lasts between four and six months, you receive support, advice, reassurance and a sympathetic ear while learning to correct negative thought patterns and distorted beliefs about the self. You learn to pinpoint the triggers for your depressed feelings and develop the ability to recognize relationship patterns, work situations, and underlying issues such as grief that may cause or exacerbate your symptoms. Interpersonal therapy works based on insight and the personal relationship and trust between the patient and therapist.

Psychodynamic Psychotherapy

Psychodynamic psychotherapy is the form of treatment you’re most likely to be familiar with from television shows and other forms of media. Psychodynamic psychotherapy has roots in Freud’s theories of the unconscious and the maladaptive behaviors that result from unprocessed or unresolved issues, mainly those originating in childhood. This form of treatment works to uncover blocks and unconscious conflicts, such as childhood traumas and memories. In psychodynamic psychotherapy, the focus is on the patient’s defense mechanisms and the transference that occurs between the patient and therapist. Transference simply refers to the redirection of unconscious feelings and wishes from childhood, placed on the therapist, who acts as a blank slate on to which you project these feelings.

Supportive Therapy

Supportive therapy is a method of psychotherapy also used to treat dysthymia. It is an eclectic method, in that it integrates techniques from the cognitive-behavioral, interpersonal, and psychodynamic forms of psychotherapy. In this form of treatment, you receive advice, reassurance, support, and information about dysthymia in an attempt to educate you and give you insight about your symptoms. The therapist tries to recognize and reinforce your healthy, functional thought processes.


Harvard Health Publications: Dysthymia

“Personal Health: Dysthymia: Help for Chronic Sadness”; New York Times; Jane E. Brody; January 18, 1995