Be it Ecclesiastes, where it is said “there is nothing new under the sun”, or the parable from Luke, that “no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish. But new wine must be put into new bottles” (Wikipedia), the fact remains, we are almost daily inundated with a “new” therapeutic or self help approach to depression– and have been for decades.
I recently found a psychoeducational–not therapy, just teaching– approach to depression published by some brilliant Oregonians in 1984. Brown and Lewinsohn wrote Control your Depression to teach coping skills to those with depressive tendencies, and they claim it works 80% of the time. That’s better than an antidepressant in my book. Essentially, their work predates all the excitement over CBT ( Aaron Beck of the 1970s notwithstanding), and happened long before CBT was established as an evidenced based approach; it arrived a good decade before the much celebrated Dialectical Behavior Therapy of Linehan, PhD. It existing far before mindfulness based therapy and the “third wave” was upon us.
I was pretty pleased to see all the same stuff–the same old wine–as we see today for depression. In fact, it was uncluttered. The research was well done and convincing. The treatment wasn’t about doing therapy, forming an alliance or relationship with a therapist, having psychoanalytic transformation, or plumbing the depths of the psyche, (which I love to read and use, by the way), it was simply a series of lectures teaching you how to deal with depression. Simple. Real.
In this world of Maker Faires, Make Magazine, open source, Do It Yourself, YouTube instructionals, and self-determination, why not go “back to the future” and pick up a book from 1984 that tells you how to manage depression?
Yes, finding motivation is a major hurdle. Often, that’s the critical role of the therapist, but truly, it can from within. I challenge us, at least on this point, to cast away the pontific, priestly mantle draped over the psychotherapist, and, like Martin Luther, form a direct relationship with relief from depression. I mean, people are learning to play the ukelele from YouTube clips: I think it might be time to try to DIY.
Skip the depth work, for now; bury the past for now; go ahead, repress the painful sadness, for now; get moving, get working, and “fake it till you make it. ” I bet you will be “feeling better” (sic. Feeling Good, David Burns) with a little effort. I think it might help. Of course, you can absolutely go back to the root work and trauma once you are a little better and emotionally stronger and confident.
Depression is beat by laying down and reinforcing–firing and wiring together–new neural networks that generate less negative ruminations and more flexible, optimistic thinking. One has to experience well-being to achieve well-being.
One can always go back to deeper therapy or counselling later, and I am not suggesting we abandon one hundred years of psychological research and effort (actually, I bet DIY could be done in parallel with a therapist–they’d love that!). I just think its often too easy to think of a therapist or psychiatrist as the car mechanic down the block who can fix your brain. That’s can be such a defeating attitude; when, in fact, the solution is within.
So, careful please! The “new” wine tastes great, but it may not be any better than the good old stuff stored in the cellar.