Self Help for Depression

Working with your thoughts

One of the best methods of self help for depression is to learn how to observe our thoughts without judgment so we can challenge the validity of them.

One of the basic things we do as cognitive behavioral therapists is explore negative automatic thoughts or ( NAT’s)

Negative automatic thoughts can be triggered by external or internal events and can also be images, or be accompanied by images. In cognitive behavioral therapy, we often get to the truth of how thoughts are tricking clients through a method called Socratic questioning. As it implies, this was a technique named for the early Greek philosopher and is designed to get at the truth. The forefathers of cognitive behavioral therapy utilized this technique in their office, as do almost all therapists.Luckily, you can teach yourself how to use this technique as self help for depression.

Self Help for Depression :Three Facts

  • Thoughts and beliefs that underlie depression are often distorted ,negative and happen automatically
  • Questioning those thoughts can help you realize that they are not helpful, distorted and untrue
  • Understanding the thoughts are not accurate can shake the foundation of the depression

Although the formula for Socratic questioning can be complicated, a simple method is demonstrated here.


  • What is the evidence for and against this thought?
  • What are different ways to think of the situation?
  • What would happen if you thought differently, and what is happening in your life if you continue to think this thought?

Self Help for Depression: Case Example

In this example a client enters the office. They are struggling with the belief that they shouldn’t be experiencing the depression they are struggling with. They have a good life filled with good things and are being ungrateful by being depressed.

The therapist may ask questions such as Do you think people who get depressed are only ones who have terrible experiences in their lives? Where do you think depression comes from? Is it true that you can only be depressed if you are really struggling with issues such as poverty, abuse, or great financial trouble?

Then, one by one, the therapist and client explore the negative automatic thoughts that are driving that current belief and exacerbating that depression.

Of course in during the process of answering these questions, the client would be forced to examine all of the untrue or distorted thoughts that are stacked up that create and contribute to the emotional state they are in, thus helping them to see the situation much clearer and hopefully to experience some relief from what they are experiencing.

Self Help for Depression: The Good News

You can learn how to do this yourself!

Here is a formula used by Byron Katie, a spiritual teacher who suffered a deep long depression at the end of which she learned many things about how to be happy. The formula is similar to that used BY CBT therapists, and is simple and to the point.


  • Do I absolutely know it ( the thought) is true?
  • How do I feel when I think that’s true?
  • Can the opposite or an alternative thought be true?
  • How do a feel when I believe that thought is true?

Often using this formula for Socratic questioning can really help with depression.


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Medical information obtained from this website is not intended as a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you have a problem, you should consult a healthcare provider.