Depression Treatment – What is popular vs. what is effective.

As a counseling psychologist / psychotherapist in the Sacramento, CA area, I am often asked by my clients, “How do you cure depression?”. As it turns out, my favorite new website,, may have the best available answer.┬áhas compiled over 8500 depression “treatment effectiveness ratings” from site visitors who volunteered to describe their symptoms, the treatments they have tried, and their perception of the effectiveness of each of these treatments. The site owners use these ratings to generate some amazing infographics which tell interesting stories about the treatment people receive and the treatment that actually works. From the website,┬áhere is their list of the top 5 treatments that clients report produced a “major improvement” in depressive symptoms:

    • Exercise
    • Adequate Sleep
    • SSRIs (Specific Seratonin Reuptake Inhibitors [e.g., Prozac])
    • Talk Therapy
    • Talking with Family and Friends.

If we expand this list to top 6, we’d also include “spend time with pet”. For anyone who has ever recovered from depression, this list might not sound surprising, however, I am constantly amazed at how little attention mental health practitioners pay to the two most effective treatments.

What is equally amazing is the data view provided here. The site charted treatments on a graph representing effectiveness on one axis and popularity on another and created two quadrants of treatments that are “surprisingly effective” (i.e., not very popular but rated is very effective) and “popular but less helpful” (self explanatory). Personal growth workshops, light therapy, and massage were listed in the “surprisingly effective” treatment group, while fish oil, journaling, and caffeine were listed in the “popular but less helpful” group.

This research is updated live on their site and the most recent interactive view of the depression treatment infographic can be found here.