Postpartum Depression Counseling

If you are experiencing the unpleasant symptoms of postpartum depression (also known as postnatal depression) don't hesitate to seek help from your health care provider. Most likely, he or she will recommend some form of counseling or therapy and perhaps even a course of medical treatment to help you cope with daily life and get back to enjoying motherhood. Research has found that a combination of counseling and medical treatment is probably the most effective way to banish postpartum depression from your life, or at least keep it under control. However, you may have some doubts about taking medication, particularly if you are breastfeeding your baby. The good news is that for mild to moderate postpartum depression, talk therapies have been shown to be just as effective as drugs such as anti-depressants.

Talking It Out

No matter what treatment or combination of treatments you go for, genuine support from your partner, family and friends can only be beneficial and you should talk to them about your feelings. Do not be ashamed and don't bottle things up inside. Remember that postpartum depression is a medically-recognized condition experienced by between 10 and 20% of women after giving birth. In addition to talking about your emotions with those closest to you, help is at hand in the form of talk therapy and counseling offered by mental health specialists. Ask your doctor where you can get access to these treatments.

Cognitive Therapy (CT)

Cognitive therapy or CT aims to challenge and dispel negative thoughts about yourself or your life that can lead to depression. In your first session, your therapist will ask you questions to establish an overall picture of your thought patterns. He or she will then point out to you the negative thoughts that set your mind racing and make you feel bad. For example, if the fact that your baby won't feed or sleep properly leads you to the conclusion that you're an inadequate mother, bad person, etc., you could be someone who would benefit from CT. Your therapist will give you techniques for challenging these thoughts as they arise and stopping your depression before it begins. CT sessions usually take place once a week over several months. The eventual aim is achieve healthy, balanced thought patterns and happier days for mom and baby.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT combines behavioral therapy and cognitive therapy. It aims to change negative and harmful behavior which is both caused by and contributes to depression. In your first session, your therapist will try to identify the thoughts and behavioral patterns which are negatively affecting your everyday life. Negative behaviors include extreme avoidance of situations that make you feel bad. For example, if you go to great lengths to avoid going out because you're afraid you might not be able to stop your baby crying in public, which leaves you feeling humiliated, anxious, or like a bad mother, etc., this is an extreme behavioral pattern which is negatively impacting on your life.  Once you and your therapist have established the problem(s), he or she will then draw up a treatment plan which you will work on together. It usually involves homework such as recording your emotions from day to day and implementing the techniques you will learn for coping with stressful situations. Sessions generally last for about one hour, once a week for several weeks or even months.

Do Cognitive Therapies Work?

Some studies have shown that cognitive therapies can be just as effective as medication in treating some forms of depression and anxiety, but the outcome of treatment depends on many factors, including your own commitment to the process. Some people with severe depression will struggle to implement the techniques because they lack motivation. Cognitive therapy requires a lot of dedication; the homework can be challenging and it forces you to confront and conquer your fears. On the plus side, once you have successfully learned the techniques, you will have them at your disposal for the rest of your life.

Other Forms Of Counseling

Cognitive therapies are not your only option. Other forms of counseling are available. Some of these are targeted at specific problems, as is cognitive therapy, and others are more wide-ranging in their approach.

Problem-solving therapy is a structured technique whereby your therapist helps you identify the specific problems in your life (for example, exhaustion due to late-night breast feeds or trouble bonding with your baby) and together you draw up a list of small, practical steps for resolving them. You then select and implement the solutions which work best for you.

Inter-personal therapy is based on the concept that many problems leading to depression are caused by communication flaws in our relationships with others. In the case of postpartum depression, these relationships could be with your partner, existing children or other family members; even your new born baby. This form of therapy tackles your depression by helping you relate more effectively to the people around you.

Psychodynamic psychotherapy is similar to psychoanalysis in that your therapist will encourage you to talk freely, without fear of judgment, about whatever comes into your head. The idea is that bringing your true feelings up from your subconscious and into the open will help you understand and tackle your depression. The roots of your depression may lie in your own experience of childhood or relationship with your own mother. This therapy differs from psychoanalysis in that it tends to have a very specific aim.

Keep Trying

Unless you are suffering from very severe postpartum depression, there is a good chance that some form of counseling or therapy will help. It's important that you persevere and keep in regular contact with your health care provider and therapist. Remember, you may have to accept using a combination of talk therapy and medication to overcome this illness. Recovery sometimes can take up to a year.

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