Psychotherapy Perspectives

Monday, May 26, 2008

Talk Therapy changes the Brain and helps with Depression and Bipolar

by Garth Mintun, LCSW, ACSW

This week I watched the PBS special “Depression: Out of the Shadows.” Dr. Dennis Charney, the Medical Director and Dean of the medical school at Mount Sinai, presented on a panel of experts with Jean Pauley. He stated that depression “on average is 35% genetic and 65% environmental.” (This is for the average person; people with histories of depression or who are bipolar will have higher percentages of the genetic factors). He stated that medication and talk therapy access different parts the brain, thus the change these treatments produce take place in different areas of the brain. Research indicates that people who undergo both psychotherapy or talk therapy and anti-depressant or bipolar medications show more progress in lessoning their depression or bipolar symptoms than they would if they simply engaged in one method of treatment. For more information, please go to the PBS web site to see the video clip or read the transcript of the discussion with Dr. Charney, the panel of experts, and Jean Pauley at:

This report is very good news. It is excellent in its ability to help people understand bipolar and depression and it also attempts to deal with the stigma of mental illness. I suggest that psychotherapists recommend this PBS series to their clients suffering from depression. Often in my practice in Indianapolis, I find that clients on medication for depression or bipolar show improvement when participating in talk therapy/counseling. These clients tend to experience a decrease in their levels of anxiety and lessoned feelings of the inertia when they come in to psychotherapy on medication. Consequently, people are able to deal with difficult core interpersonal issues with less anxiety and vulnerability than they would if they were not on anti-depressant and or bipolar medication.

The other piece of good news is that “talk therapy “actually changes the brain as well, producing biological effects. This program shows how people who have been suffering from long-term depression can perhaps see how their “talk therapy” actually changes the way they think in profound ways and compliments the medication therapy approach.

Often people go to their family practice physicians just for medication, rather than also attending talk therapy. After reviewing the research, people suffering from depression and bipolar may want to receive more comprehensive help by adding psychotherapy to their treatment. Again, the PBS show “Out of the Shadows” is an excellent vehicle for consumers to understand depression and bipolar and learn about ways that they might go about receiving help.


  • Garth,

    I hope this sticks. Your article has been very helpful. I live here in Indianapolis. I attempted to contact you some time ago, but am thankful that I have found some way to make progress. Thank you for your blog.

    Miriam Pia

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 4:16 PM  

  • Thank you for the comment. If I missed you when you tried to contact me, please try again.

    By Blogger Garth Mintun, At 8:24 PM  

  • Garth,

    I have had a therapy session today and have also had a chat with my father...I feel that my father was somewhat negative about something that last week he assured me that he would be happy to help with...It had to do with money...There is an issue concerning values here...Then I read your article above having forgotten that I already had...only to find my own comment and that you have actually replied instead of there just being nothing...nothing out there...

    I think the worst part for anyone who has had bouts of depression is that it is hardest to get help when that help is most needed...Once it clears up and your not depressed anymore reaching out to others or pursuing therapy usually isn't even difficult, but when you are so miserable you want to die and no one will talk to you that's when it is both dangerous and incredibly bleak.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 4:41 PM  

  • Miriam,

    Again, thank you for your comments on depression. Yes, when there are bouts of depression it is difficult to ask for help and when things are bleak it seems like nobody cares. I am glad you received and found help. I hope you have increased happiness!


    By Blogger Garth Mintun, At 9:10 AM  

  • Garth,

    That was way too true. The other day, I did a write up of what triggered the bouts and in 3 of 4 cases it was actually truly severe circumstances...the joy of perspective...of course its probably just that I have managed to pay my bills, have some writing contracts, have made some new friends and have at least some kind of "lovey dovey friend" - that isn't everything but its a lot of what actually makes me happy. I even have work I like...although getting paid well is still an issue...Cutting anyone off from most of their support, blaming the victim and having at least of someone's friends betray them along with divorce, abandonment and the loss of massive amounts of daily domestic companionship and financial support would upset just about anyone. That was what got to me the last time...
    Does that seem reasonable to you?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 2:02 PM  

  • I agree with you. What made you upset would make anybody feel isolated, alone and very sad. Coupled with the loss of a relationship, a good friend and financial loss, it would be difficult to trust. The good news from you is that you are doing better and gives all of us hope too. Thanks for your contribution.

    By Blogger Garth Mintun, At 3:07 PM  

Post a Comment


Create a Link

<< Home