Join Our Community

Be Your Own Therapist

Articles Inspirational articles from Hay House authors

Be Your Own Therapist

Powerful tools to reverse painful moods.
Robert L. Leahy
Robert L. Leahy More by this author
Aug 09, 2010 at 10:00 AM

Over the 27 years I’ve been a practicing therapist, many people have asked me, “Don’t you get depressed working with depressed people?” Ironically, the answer is just the opposite. I feel great working with depressed people, because I know they can be helped.

Yes, the good news is that with effective treatment you can overcome depression—and once you do, you have a good chance of preventing its recurrence. New self-help techniques may be able to help you reverse your negative thinking and your painful sad moods. It’s not easy. It requires work on your part. But there are powerful tools—many kinds of tools—that you can learn to use to help yourself.

Most depressed people can be helped with newer forms of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). My colleagues and I have been developing this approach for the past 30 years and it’s now used throughout the world as the psychotherapy treatment of choice for depression and anxiety. This is a therapy that helps you change the way you think (your cognitions) and what you do (your behavior). Once you change the way you think you will change the way you feel and break the cycle of self-perpetuated pain.

Rather than spending years on the couch of a therapist who strokes his beard and asks tangential questions that make no sense to you, with CBT you can start to change your life today. And for many people, CBT has more lasting effects than any other approach. If you treat moderate or severe depression with medication, but then discontinue your medication after you have gotten better, the chances are high (76 percent) that you will get depressed again in the next 12 months. But if you’ve gotten better with cognitive therapy, you have a lower chance (only 30 percent) of relapse after you stop. And, to make things even better, you will learn ways that you can dramatically decrease the likelihood of getting depressed again. Pills don’t teach you skills, but CBT does.

If you were one of my patients, I might start our CBT session off by asking you, “What problem do you want to work on today?” In place of passive listening, I would take an active role with you, asking you to evaluate your thoughts, test them against reality, try to find new ways of thinking about things, and consider specific new behaviors that you might try. I would give you self-help homework assignments so that you could be your own therapist in between sessions. We would periodically evaluate your progress, consider why some things weren’t working, and experiment with new techniques. We would not give up. And we would push you to work on making changes today.

I want to take this same active, engaging, in-your-face approach with you. In working with depression for nearly three decades, I’ve learned a lot from my patients and from my own life, and I think that you can learn from the techniques and strategies that my many patients have found useful. The secret is to make you, in effect, your own therapist, your own “life coach,” so that you don’t need to get reassurance from other people in order to give yourself direction. The ultimate goal is to put you in charge of yourself.

Depending on how severe your depression is, it may be best for you to have some outside help—at least at the start. Chronic, long-lasting, debilitating depression can take an enormous toll on your quality of life, and in many cases, these chronic conditions are the result of inadequate treatment. If your depression has had a debilitating effect on you, it’s important to take it seriously and treat it aggressively and comprehensively. The ideal arrangement would be for you to have the assistance of a trained cognitive behavioral therapist, as well as a physician whom you can consult about other options, such as medication. You can find listings of certified therapists at and, in the United Kingdom, You’ll find more resources for exploring your options, as well as information about biological treatments, in the Appendices of my book, Beat the Blues.

Depression can affect every area of your life, so you will need tools that you can use in every area, every day of your life. If I only give you reassurance, you will only feel better for a few minutes. If I give you the tools, you can fix things when I am not there.

You don’t have to wait for someone to rescue you. You can rescue yourself.

About Author
Robert L. Leahy
Robert L. Leahy, Ph.D., is recognized worldwide as one of the most respected writers and speakers on cognitive therapy. Educated at Yale University, he is the director of the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy, president of the International As Continue reading