Self-help refers to materials that depressed people can use on their own to try and improve their depression symptoms. In some cases, people who have not seen a professional about depression may access these resources. At other times, the materials are recommended by medical or mental health professionals to support ongoing psychotherapy or antidepressant treatment. Self-help materials come in various formats including books and guided programs delivered online or through mobile apps.
How Does Self-Help Compare to Professional Treatment for Depression?
There is some evidence that self-help materials can be as effective as professional face-to-face treatment (Cuijpers, Donker, van Straten, Li, & Andersson, 2010). The most widely studied types of self-help treatment for depression are online programs, which usually incorporate aspects of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy . These programs are most effective when people complete all of the exercises. However, some research has shown that many people stop using the programs after only a short time. Books may also provide some benefit although they have been less studied (Anderson et al., 2005) A benefit of self-help materials is that they are a low-cost and flexible option for people who may otherwise have difficulty accessing professional treatment due to financial constraints. In addition, some people may be more comfortable accessing materials on their own before contacting a professional about depression. However, self-help materials should not be considered a substitute for professional treatment. Particularly in cases of severe depression, or when a person’s depressive symptoms remain after trying self-help materials for a time, it may be important to contact a medical or mental health professional.
What Are Some Commonly Recommended Self-Help Materials?
Popular written books about managing depression
• Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy / Burns
• The Depression Cure / Ilardi
• The Mindful Way Through Depression / Williams, Teasdale, Segal and Kabat-Zinn
Depression Workbooks (typically include written exercises to be completed by the reader)
• Mind Over Mood: Changing How You Feel By Changing the Way You Think / Greenberger and Padesky
• Treatments That Work: Overcoming Depression / Gilson, Freeman, Yates and Freeman
• Overcoming Depression One Step At A Time / Addis & Martell
• The Mindfulness and Acceptance Workbook for Depression / Strosahl and Robinson
Online Programs :
• MoodGym: https://moodgym.anu.edu.au/welcome (FREE!)
• Beating The Blues US: https://www.beatingthebluesus.com/
• Good Days Ahead: http://www.empower-interactive.com/solutions/good-days-ahead/
• MoodKit (iPhone)
• T2 Mood Tracker (Android and iPhone)
• ACTCoach (Android and iPhone)
• Virtual Hope Box (Android and iPhone)
- Anderson, L., Lewis, G., Araya, R., Elgie, R., Harrison, G., Proudfoot, J., . . . Williams, C. (2005). Self-help books for depression: how can practitioners and patients make the right choice? Br J Gen Pract, 55(514), 387-392.
- Cuijpers, P., Donker, T., van Straten, A., Li, J., & Andersson, G. (2010). Is guided self-help as effective as face-to-face psychotherapy for depression and anxiety disorders? A systematic review and meta-analysis of comparative outcome studies. Psychol Med, 40(12), 1943-1957. doi:10.1017/s0033291710000772