Depression and anxiety - Core Counselling
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28 Jul Depression and anxiety

Depression & Anxiety: An Overview

Depression and anxiety are extremely common in both adults and adolescents alike. Although treatable, these mental health concerns but remain undiagnosed. I’m sure you can relate. It seems that pretty much everyone I meet has had experience with depression or anxiety, either within their own lives or in the lives of someone close to them. Some estimates claim that 17-28% of the North American population experiences one or both of these afflictions. 

Depression & Anxiety: Symptoms
Depression is characterized by a set of physical, cognitive and behavioural symptoms that negatively impact the individual. These can include: self-imposed isolation, avoidance, significant changes in sleeping and eating habits, loss of interest in normal activities and hobbies, feelings of helplessness and sadness.

Anxiety, on the other hand, differs in presentation, including symptoms such as: constant worrying, ruminating thoughts, nervousness, headaches, muscle tension, increased sweating, heart-rate, shallow breathing, and fearfulness.

Depression & Anxiety: Counselling and Medication

Treating Depression is often accomplished with a combination of counselling and medication. Currently, one of the most beneficial approaches is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). This approach to therapy helps the individual learn and develop specific skills to identify, manage, and control experienced symptoms. Within counselling, CBT therapists assists individuals in addressing their destructive patterns of negative thinking by challenging their unhelpful thoughts. Individuals are encouraged to implement changes to their behaviours by specifically challenging and replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts and assumptions.

Anxiety can also be successfully treated with a combination of therapy and medication. While Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is often prescribed as part of a treatment plan for anxiety, several other approaches have also proven helpful. When dealing with anxiety, research shows the benefit of mindfulness-based approaches, such as Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy (AEDP) or Observational Experiential Integration (OEI). Such approaches incorporate particular breathing and grounding techniques to control and manage anxiety’s symptoms. Regulating one’s breathing with deep diaphragmatic breaths activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which directly slows down one’s heart rate and relaxes the body’s muscles.

Understanding These Therapeutic Approaches: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy, and Observational Experiential Integration.

A Cognitive Behavioural Therapy aims to break down major problems – significant depressive thoughts and reoccurring patterns – into smaller, more manageable parts. CBT focuses on both an individual’s cognitive and behavioural functioning associated with depression. The cognitive part of the therapy challenges one’s negative thoughts and emotions, making the individual more aware of them and motivated towards change. The behavioural aspect involves actively monitoring one’s thoughts and focusing towards the positive experiences in life.

One of the major benefits of CBT is that it’s instructive, helping individuals understand how to help themselves through experienced hardships in a rational way. CBT empowers individuals through instilling confidence towards overcoming depressive or anxiety-related symptoms.

Generally speaking, improvements can be seen with an individual’s depression or anxiety can be seen within 6-12 sessions. Sessions are usually supplemented with homework assignments, tools to practice, and readings. CBT is a dynamic, flexible approach that can easily be adapted into group settings, interactive apps, computer programs, or self-help books.

However, CBT does not come without limitations. One major disadvantage is that it requires the individual to commit fully to the process. The therapist may offer advice, but the only way to truly address the problem is through active participation and co-operation. While the short-term duration of CBT is one of its greatest advantages, individuals are often expected to carry out follow-up assignments or practice, which is not always guaranteed, even if session attendance is regular.
CBT’s structured, focused approach is not always suitable for people with learning disabilities or complex cognitive concerns. As CBT treatment encourages confronting emotions and fears,  certain individuals identify a great deal of anxiety during the initial stages the treatment. While CBT successfully addresses current-day concerns, it has been critiqued that CBT fails to fully address underlying causes and past issues. For this reason, if individuals seek to uncover and process through their past concerns, alternative approaches such as Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy (AEDP) or Observational Experiential Integration (OEI) are encouraged.

AEDP, developed by Dr. Diana Fosha, is a counselling approach that focuses on 3 fundamental elements: Attachment, Emotional Processing, and Transformation. It incorporates techniques that prioritize the in-depth processing of difficult emotions in a safe environment, promoting transformation and healing.

AEDP’s primary goal is to help individuals develop valuable skill sets which will help them address and work through difficult and traumatizing emotional states. While individuals often respond to emotional traumas with regression or avoidance, AEDP assists individuals to confront their painful emotional traumas by learning to cope with challenges and stress more constructively.

Observational Experiential  Integration (OEI) is an increasingly effective trauma therapy, developed by Audrey Cook and Dr. Richard Bradshaw. OEI therapy intervention involves deep emotional processing which has shown to produce significant improvements in treating Depression, Anxiety, Panic Disorders, Self- Harming, Eating Disorders, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders, etc. OEI teaches trauma grounding and containment exercises, while processing through specific trauma events. This approach utilizes one’s eye movements to track and alleviate emotional intensity within the safety of a strong therapeutic relationship.