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Ask A TFI Clinician: Dealing With Depression

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Today, Paula Young, PhD, Family Institute staff therapist, director of The Family Institute Depression Treatment Program and clinical supervisor for the Anxiety and Panic Treatment Program, provides her insights on the symptoms of depression, as well as depression treatment options.


What is Depression?

The recent loss of Robin Williams has highlighted the importance of knowing about the signs and symptoms of clinical depression. This is more than just a passing mood or stress. Depression is a serious mental illness, which affects mood, thought, body, and behavior.  In contrast to the normal emotional experiences of sadness, depression is persistent and can interfere significantly with an individual’s ability to function at work or home, or with friends and family. It is more than the blues, yet many still view it as “personal weakness” or a “character flaw.”

Symptoms of depression include a sad or low mood, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, changes in appetite, changes in sleep, low energy, thoughts of hopelessness, worthlessness or guilt, difficulty concentrating, and thoughts of death or suicide.

Major Depressive Disorder often begins between ages 15-30 or even earlier. Some people have one episode in a lifetime; others have recurrent episodes. For some, depression is a chronic illness. A less severe type of depression, Dysthymia, involves long-term, chronic symptoms that do not disable, but keep one from functioning well or from feeling good. Many people with dysthymia may also experience major depressive episodes at some time in their lives.


Other Facts about Depression

  • Depression may be associated with life events such as significant losses (spouses, children, jobs) or major financial difficulties.
  • Personality factors such as undue dependency and low self-esteem may also be associated with a vulnerability to depression.
  • There’s an increased risk for developing depression when there is a family history of these illnesses.  Where a genetic vulnerability exists, onset probably results from a combination of vulnerability and life experience.
  • Depression often co-occurs with medical, psychiatric, and substance abuse disorders.  When this happens, the presence of both illnesses is frequently unrecognized and may lead to serious and unnecessary consequences for clients and families.



If you or a loved one needs help, there are options. The Family Institute offers specialized services through its Depression Treatment Program


What is the Depression Treatment Program?

The Program studies, diagnoses, and treats depressive disorders using and evidence-based form of psychotherapy called Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). This program is staffed by Northwestern University faculty member, Paula R. Young, Ph.D., as Jennifer Welbel, Velizar Nikiforov. Experienced Northwestern University doctoral candidates also work with clients. Each therapist is closely supervised by Dr. Young or other qualified faculty members to insure clients are receiving the highest level of care.

Clients are seen at The Family Institute, 618 Library Place on North western’s Evanston campus or the Millennium Park Office at 8 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago.


Assessment & Treatment

Clients participate in a detailed and comprehensive interview about past and present problems with depression and related conditions to determine personalized treatment plan to meet the client’s individual needs. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a brief form of psychotherapy, which has been shown to be effective in the treatment of depression. CBT aims to directly target distressing symptoms, re-evaluate thinking and promote helpful coping responses by offering problem-focused, skills-based treatment interventions. CBT focuses on developing specific skills. Cognitive skills include identifying and changing certain thinking patterns that cause or increase emotional distress. Behavioral skills include learning healthy ways to respond when distressed. Being able to use these skills in order to overcome depression is one of the main goals of therapy.

Clinic fees are determined based on the client’s ability to pay. Services by more experienced staff therapists are set individually based on their levels of training and expertise.


How Do I Make an Appointment?

If you think that you or someone you know suffers from depression, or if you would like additional information, please call The Family Institute at (847) 733-4300 x 635, or email us at .

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