VIDEO: Overcoming Depression without Meds

Making Clients Active Participants in their Healing Journey

Rich Simon

Want to instill hope in your depressed clients? According to Jim Gordon, author of Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven Stage Journey out of Depression, you can start by reinforcing the idea that antidepressants aren’t always necessary for recovery.

Jim Gordon explains how medication isn’t necessary to treat depression.

When we frame depression as a disease, Jim says, it can seem insurmountable and discourage our clients. But there’s no consistent biochemical abnormality in depression, he adds, so the disease analogy and the promise of antidepressants as a cure just doesn't hold water.

According to Jim, the solution is a mind-body approach that instills hope and puts recovery directly in the client’s hand, making them active participants in their own healing journey.

Watch this video clip to see why, according to Jim, depression isn’t a disorder, but an identity crisis and spiritual journey. By dispelling the myth that long-term usage of antidepressants is necessary for recovery, you can instill hope.

In our Webcast series, Making the Mind-Body Connection in Talk Therapy, Jim explains why a mind-body therapeutic approach—including medication alternatives such as herbal supplements, physical exercise, and even drawing—is a proven treatment method that helps the body heal the mind.

Topic: Mind/Body

Tags: add | antidepressants | depression | HEAL | mind-body | overcoming depression | therapy | treat depression

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Monday, September 15, 2014 4:51:05 PM | posted by Cliff
I find this claim -- that depression is categorically not a "disease" -- disturbing. I can certainly agree that one experience of depression is a "dark night of the soul" -- indeed a spiritual crisis of sorts. This has been written about extensively in transpersonal psychology, an important part of my master’s program.

My doctoral work was in Jungian psychology, so I’m also well familiar with narrative approaches to depression. They can be useful.

That said, as someone who has endured debilitating major depression and as someone who uses integrative approaches with clients (now outside the canon of mainstream psychology), I think it's pretty irresponsible to simply dismiss the disease model altogether. Anyone reading this would have to ask why, if there's not a biochemical component, Dr. Gordon prescribes herbs, diet changes and exercise. As for mindfulness: Even Jon Kabat Zinn has noted that in cases of major clinical depression, mindfulness practices are just about impossible, instead having much more effectiveness in preventive use and to deal with less severe depression.

I say this as someone who had two very good years after initial prescription of an SSRI but has never responded as well to medication again -- to the degree that my psychiatrist is encouraging me to try ECT. I have also been involved, as I said, in integrative practices and meditation during those periods when my depression was not so debilitating.

What Dr. Gordon doesn’t want to acknowledge is that depression is often untreatable. Yes, the meds even create their own serious problems – acres have been written about this in recent years – but I have seen no comprehensive studies demonstrating that integrative approaches are more effective in cases of major depression. Hope comes to an end for many, though it can have an apparently significant placebo effect.

Far from making people feel like powerless victims, the understanding that even though we don’t know exactly what the process is, comparing major depression to a disease provides some relief from the culture’s constant framing of it as a failure of personal will. Psychiatry simply cannot admit its ineffectiveness in many cases of this amazingly debilitating state of mind.

Finally, I’d like to mention another cultural bias here. Integrative approaches like Dr. Gordon’s cost way too much money for people who most need the help. If you’re on Medicaid, a drug is going to be a lot more affordable than a visit to an acupuncturist and a yoga class. Arguably, at this time in our history, we are building an argument for more integrative approaches but anyone who has been involved in the transpersonal or Jungian communities can tell you they are populated by the well-to-do.

In short, what psychiatry needs to face now is its great ineffectiveness in treating clinical depression. And, unless there’s new statistical evidence, even its treatment of comparatively moderate depression – regardless of methodology! – doesn’t hasten the usual period of grieving . Psychiatry and Big Pharma have kept one another afloat in denial of their ineffectiveness.

Monday, September 15, 2014 4:29:07 PM | posted by Victoria Young, PhD
Without having watched the full video, I am nonetheless horrified by this video clip and it's implications. While there is a clear controversy within the medical/psychotherapy community as to the efficacy of anti-depressants, it is, I think, incredibly irresponsible to make a blanket statement (as your guest does) that (and I am paraphrasing) long-term anti-depressant use has been shown to be ineffective, and to suggest (based on ostensible research) that anti-depressants may not be useful at all. Many studies have demonstrated the efficacy of anti-depressants (in conjunction with and in the absence of therapy) and many more have shown that long-term use, particularly in certain types of MDD, are indeed prophylactic. While I understand that using the language of medicine ("disease") to describe profound emotional states linked to thought processes may be uncomfortable for many, I do not see how it removes any sense of 'hope' for patients---on the contrary, many find it a relief to know that there is "actually" something wrong with their brain and NOT with their personality or moral character. The idea that you can simply 'think' your way out of depression is both dangerous and offensive to those who suffer from it. Exercise and good diet are no-brainers for ANYONE's mental health---the fact that one can achieve neither is usually a symptom of depression itself and is therefor a rather difficult source of cure. As for supplements---there is even less scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of these than there are for anti-depressants.