My father was diagnosed with lung cancer last January, and within weeks, he was gone. Shortly after that, I got laid off at work. It didn’t take long to burn through our savings, and the financial pressure started to impact my relationship with my wife.

I felt hollowed out and empty. This wasn’t just grief or stress; it was something more. I wasn’t sad, I wasn’t angry– but something was wrong. I started to think maybe things would be better if I wasn’t here. If there’s an afterlife, I could see my father again. My life insurance would relieve my wife’s financial pressure, and she could move on and maybe even marry again.

One morning, my wife sat on the edge of our bed, gently laid her hand over mine and told me: “We’re going to get you some help.”

Together, we searched for a mental health counsellor in our area. She even came with me to the first session and supported me through the ongoing weeks and months of therapy.

My counsellor put a name to what I was feeling – depression. She gave me the tools to identify the source of my pain and helped me unpack years of hurt that I’d kept buried until the events of the past year had exposed them.

My wife saved my life by giving me the courage to take that first step. If that’s where you are today, I promise it doesn’t have to be this way. There is hope, and real happiness and contentment are within your reach. Don’t wait another day.

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Depression (major depressive disorder) is a serious yet common medical condition that negatively affects the way you feel, think, and behave. It is also treatable. Depression is more than sadness. It can lead to a broad range of emotional and physical problems and impact your ability to function at work and home.

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Here are some of the most frequently asked questions that we receive. If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in Canada. The causes are as varied as the individuals who experience its sometimes debilitating effects.

Studies on twins, adopted individuals, and family studies have linked depression to genetics, though there is much still to be learned and understood. There is, however, evidence to suggest having parents or siblings with depression may increase your risk.

Scientists agree that depression is most likely caused by an imbalance in the neurotransmitters which are involved in the regulation of our moods. Neurotransmitters serve as conduits that enable different areas of the brain to communicate with each other. If the supply of neurotransmitters is interrupted or in short supply, an individual may experience depressive symptoms. Studies have also shown that people with depression may have physical differences in their brains, though further research is necessary before conclusions can be drawn.

Women suffer from major depression roughly twice as often as their male counterparts. The incidence of depressive disorders peaks during a woman’s reproductive years and this has led researchers to believe hormonal fluctuations such as a result during menstruation, childbirth, and perimenopause may be the cause. The good news is that the risk of depression in women declines after menopause.

Hormones may also be out of balance because of thyroid conditions. This can trigger depression, particularly in people who are already susceptible because of other risk factors.

Some individuals develop situational depression, or “adjustment disorder with depressed mood,” as a response to highly stressful situations or trauma.

Your doctor may diagnosis you with depression based on several, often interrelated, factors. Often, your doctor will begin with a physical exam as depression may be linked to an underlying physical health problem. Based on your responses, they may order additional tests such as a complete blood panel or test your thyroid function.

Your doctor or psychologist will also do a psychological evaluation. They will ask you questions or have you fill out a questionnaire about your symptoms, thoughts, feelings and behavior patterns. Based on your responses, they will use the criteria for depression as listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

Depression manifests in different ways. Some of the most common signs are:

  • Depressed mood, sadness, or an “empty” feeling
  • A loss of interest or enjoyment in activities you once found gratifying
  • Weight loss or significant weight gain unrelated to changes in diet
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • Restlessness or irritation
  • Feeling “heavy” or weighted down
  • Fatigue or low energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Excessive, unsubstantiated guilt
  • Difficulty making decisions – even simple ones like what to eat
  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide without a specific plan (“suicidal ideation”)
  • Suicide attempt or specific plan for ending one’s life

There are many treatment options available for depression, but how well the treatment works is dependent on the type of depression and its severity as well as your body chemistry.

Many clients turn to psychotherapy to deal with their depressive disorder, though most people find a combination of psychotherapy and medication brings better results than either as a standalone approach.

There are several different types of psychotherapy to choose from, and your therapist will discuss a treatment plan for you, customized to your specific needs and symptoms.

Cognitive behavioural therapy
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) helps the client identify and assess so they can then change negative thinking patterns associated with depression. CBT is generally a short-term approach, sometimes limited to 8-16 sessions.

Interpersonal therapy
Interpersonal therapy (IPT) focuses on identifying and working on problems in personal relationships or other significant life change that may be contributing to the depression. Therapists teach individuals to evaluate their interactions and to improve how they relate to others. Like CBT, IPT is often time-limited and prepares the individual to assess their interactions and apply tools learned in sessions to improve their interpersonal relationships.

Psychodynamic therapy
Psychodynamic therapy focuses on recognizing and understanding negative feelings and patterns of behaviour from past experiences and learning to resolve them. This approach can be short or long term. Your therapist may also suggest psychoeducation and support groups for both the individual struggling with depressive disorder and their family.

Psychoeducation teaches individuals about depression’s symptoms and effects, as well as how to recognize negative thought patterns and avoid relapse. Support groups offer participants the opportunity to share their experiences and learn effective coping strategies, while others may be peer-led.


There are many misconceptions about what therapy can and cannot do. Perhaps you have had some of these thoughts yourself:

  • Therapy is a waste of time
  • I can handle this myself – talking to someone else won’t change anything
  • Therapy is a scam and a way to make money off people who are hurting
  • Once I start going, I’ll never be able to stop

Not only are these statements blatantly false, but they also stand in the way of individuals with legitimate mental health struggles getting the help they desperately need and deserve.

  • Therapy is a waste of time. Movies and TV have turned psychology into a pop culture joke. Only the rich or “crazy” people waste money by laying on a psychotherapist’s couch and talking about their problems. The truth is, research has proven that emotional and behavioural interventions acquired in therapy work just as well, and sometimes better than, medication alone in treating anxiety, depression, and mental health issues like OCD and PTSD.
  • I can handle this myself – talking to someone else won’t change anything. Let’s face it: If you could fix it on your own, you would have by now. Working with a trained clinical therapist is often the safest, fastest, and most effective way to deal with depression. They can help you identify triggers, traps, and cycles of behaviour or thoughts that lead to depression.
  • Therapy is a scam and a way to make money off people who are hurting. Again, if you could do this on your own, you’d have done it by now. A trained psychotherapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist can provide you with the tools you need to take back your life and find the joy and happiness you deserve. They have spent years honing their craft, investing in ongoing education to provide the highest level of care to their clients.
  • Once I start going, I’ll never be able to stop. Effective therapy comes with an end date because the skills learned in each session are what lasts forever. In your initial appointments, you and your therapist will set goals, and then you will work together to accomplish them. Of course, your therapist’s door will always be open, and you may decide to come back for a “check-up” or reset if you relapse into those unhealthy patterns or behaviours, but therapy is a path to wellness, not a hamster wheel.

There are several different types of psychotherapy to choose from, and your therapist will discuss a treatment plan for you that is customized to your specific needs and symptoms. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) helps the client identify and assess so they can then change negative thinking patterns associated with depression. CBT is generally a short-term approach, sometimes limited to 8-16 sessions.

Time and again, CBT has proven effective for a range of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety disorders, addictions, marital problems, even eating disorders and other severe forms of mental illness. Many studies have found CBT to be a better tool in treating these issues than other types of therapy or psychiatric medications.

CBT is based on several core principles. First, mental health issues are based, in part, on faulty or unhelpful ways of thinking. The resulting problems can be traced to learned patterns of destructive behaviour. The good news is that individuals struggling with their mental health can learn strategies to help them cope and in some cases, overcome their symptoms.

CBT therapy is focused on changing broken or misleading thinking patterns. Your therapist will teach you to recognize distortions in your thinking that are creating problems, and then provide the tools to help you evaluate them in light of reality. Through this skillset, you’ll get a better understanding of both your own as well as others’ behaviour and motivation. As you grow and utilize these skills, you’ll become more confident in your ability to tackle your fears. You’ll learn how to face rather than flee your problems, and learn to calm your mind and relax your body.

The most important thing to remember is that CBT is a collaborative effort between you and your therapist. Together you’ll work at identifying the problem, set goals, and create a strategy to accomplish them. You’ll take these tools and apply them in real-world situations, enabling you to take back control of your life and move forward with confidence in your ability to face whatever lies ahead.

It takes courage to make that call to ask for professional help. Sometimes, figuring out which type of mental health professional you should see can make the task even more daunting.

How you feel about talk therapy versus medication, or if you’re interested in using a combination of both. If your goal is medication-based treatment alone, or alongside counselling, you will need to see a medical professional like a psychiatrist. If, however, you’re looking for talk therapy, a psychotherapist or psychologist may be the best choice.

  • What is the problem that needs to be treated? Whether you choose a psychiatrist or psychotherapist, both professionals will do an “intake interview” to get an overview of the presenting problem. If it requires medication, professional ethics dictate that your counsellor will direct you to a doctor or psychiatrist. If medication isn’t necessary, you may be referred to a psychologist or psychotherapist as many psychiatrists do not offer counselling.
  • What is the best treatment plan? For example, marriage problems may be resolved through talk therapy, but bipolar disorder, clinical depression, or ADHD may require medication.
  • How long will it take to feel better? That’s a difficult question. Mental health isn’t a black and white issue, and no timeline fits across disorders. There is no “quick fix,” even with medication. Everyone’s body metabolizes drugs differently, and it often takes weeks to see results. Therapy can be an even less predictable science as many times clients present with more than one issue, and generally only meet with their therapist once a week.
  • What if I feel like things aren’t working? If you feel like you aren’t making progress, begin by talking about your frustration with your treatment provider. Perhaps you haven’t given it enough time, haven’t been implementing the strategies you’ve been taught, or sometimes you and your treatment provider aren’t a good fit. The key is to hang in there, don’t quit. Instead, look at your options. Give the medication time to work. Implement the tools your therapist has taught you. Find a different therapist or treatment provider. Your mental health is far too valuable to give up so easily.

Using these skills and strategies is the first step in taking control of your mental health, which is essential for long term success.

There is much research demonstrating that talk therapy can be useful in treating depression. Talking to a mental health professional can help you identify negative thought patterns and equip you with the tools to manage your symptoms.

For individuals with mild to moderate depression, talk therapy may be sufficient to help you overcome your battle and feel better. However, those with severe or clinical depression may need medication along with talk therapy to get back on track.

The two most common forms of therapy used for treating depression are cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy. CBT focuses on how your negative thought patterns impact your mood. Your therapist will work with you to identify these patterns, then take action by making positive changes in your thoughts and behaviour. Interpersonal, as its name suggests, centres on how you relate to others. Your therapist will help you identify pitfalls and bad habits in your relationships and make positive changes in those relationships.

In your first session, your therapist will ask you what prompted you to seek help. It’s vital that you be honest about your reasons so your therapist can help you set the appropriate goals. For example, are you trying to improve your relationship with your partner, or are you hoping to set goals and change your thought patterns and behaviour?

Like medication, talk therapy may not make you feel better right away. In fact, initially you may feel a little worse as you uncover the source of your pain. But take heart because every step you take is a step toward healing and hope. If you do the work, then over time you should start to see changes in the way you think, feel, and act. Your relationships will become healthier and you will become stronger.

Individuals facing a diagnosis of depression face a dilemma in how to proceed with treatment. Therapy? Medication? Both?

The first consideration is the severity of the depression. When a person is mildly depressed or hasn’t been depressed for a prolonged period of time, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is equally effective with or without medication. However, individuals with moderate to severe depression often find greater success through a combination of CBT and medication. This is particularly true for individuals with chronic depression (defined as lasting at least two years). Based on these and other studies, clinicians recommend psychotherapy or medication as first-line treatment for persons with mild to moderate depression and a combination of the two for individuals with more severe or chronic depression.

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