How do I choose between treatment options?

Over the centuries, many people across different cultures have developed many diverse ways of dealing with life’s hardships. These include spiritual, artistic, meditative, medical, interpersonal, behavioral, educational, psychological, and community-based techniques. There is no single “right” technique, and there are many paths available for you to choose from. With so many options available, it can be difficult to wade through them all. In general, there are two main things to keep in mind when evaluating a particular treatment for depression: 1) What do you want out of therapy? and 2) Does the treatment do what it is supposed to do?

What Do You Want Out of Treatment?

When it comes to finding a treatment for depression, many people find themselves focused on trying to find something that will get rid of their unwanted feelings of sadness, worthlessness, emptiness, and loss. Indeed, many treatments (e.g., traditional Cognitive Therapy, antidepressant medications) are geared towards eliminating these symptoms of depression. Alternatively, rather than trying to get rid of depression, some therapies focus on finding meaning and improving your quality of life (e.g., Acceptance and Commitment Therapy). Although more meaningful living often reduces depression, the aim is about getting more satisfaction out of life rather than having fewer negative thoughts and feelings. By choosing a particular therapy you are choosing to make something important- what is important to you?

Does the Treatment Do What It is Supposed to Do?

After deciding upon what you want out of treatment, there is the question of whether a given therapy actually produces the outcomes that it is supposed to produce. Some therapies help almost no one (e.g., “quackery”), whereas other therapies tend to work well for many people. What works for some people might not work for others, so your own experience with trying a particular therapy will be the best way to find out what actually works for you. The downside to this “trial and error” approach is that you might have to try many therapies before landing on the one that works best for you, which can be costly and prolong your suffering. Fortunately, concerned researchers have spent decades systematically sorting through existing therapies and developing new techniques to learn the difference between what tends to work best for people and what tends to be a waste of time. Choosing an evidence-based therapy gives you the best chance of being effective and efficient in successfully overcoming your depression.

Of the various types of psychotherapy that have been researched, one particular family of therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), has the largest body of research showing it to be consistently effective in treating depression. The Depression Treatment Program at Portland Psychotherapy is based in the CBT tradition, and specifically employs Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Behavioral Activation (BA) , and Radically-Open Dialectical Behavior Therapy (RO-DBT) for the treatment of depression. You can learn more about the research behind these evidence-based therapies by clicking on the following links:

  • A summary review of various studies showing ACT to be as effective as the most effective treatments for a variety of disorders, including depression
  • A study showing ACT to be as effective as traditional Cognitive Therapy for the treatment of depression and anxiety
  • A study showing BA to be as effective as antidepressant medications and more effective than traditional Cognitive Therapy in treating severe depression
  • A study showing that BA and traditional Cognitive Therapy are more effective than antidepressant medications at preventing relapses of depression
  • A paper describing and comparing ACT, BA, and traditional Cognitive Therapy
  • A website dedicated to information about ACT and related topics


When choosing a therapy, it is also important to take into consideration your insurance, financial resources, time resources, and ability to travel to a clinic. The therapists at Portland Psychotherapy are able to accept a variety of forms of insurance, and we also have reduced fee services available for those in financial need. In addition to Portland Psychotherapy, there are several other low-fee clinics at various locations across the Portland area.

Online Self Help Programs for the Treatment of Depression:

Another approach to geographic or financial limitations is to consider whether online therapy might work for you. Below are some links to resources outside of Portland Psychotherapy regarding online depression treatment programs. The links are provided for access and informational purposes; we are not necessarily endorsing any products or services.

Beating the Blues (free online program)
The ANU Centre for Health Research e-hub (several free online programs)

Contact us:

If you or a loved one is struggling with depression or mood problems, we’re here to help. We are happy to help you figure out your treatment options and figure out the best path for you toward health and wholeness.

Feel free to give us a call at: 503-281-4852 x1

or send us a message using the confidential form below.