You are hereDr. Harris Jensen Reviews Modern Effective Methods For Treating Major Depression...

Dr. Harris Jensen Reviews Modern Effective Methods For Treating Major Depression...

By harrisjensen - Posted on 29 October 2012

Holistic Approaches And Medication Can Help Speed Recovery And Empower Self Control!

by Harris Jensen, MD

Editor, Good Day

I have worked as a physician in Fort Collins, CO since 1996, working with about 8,000 patients and providing about 40,000 visits. I use a medical approach, identifying the biological and psychological and social things that keep people depressed. I then work with them to remove those obstacles so they can gain emotional self control.  This obviously can be a very difficult time for someone who is depressed, so we do everything to make the office a warm, personal and inviting place to visit! We have a friendly staff, Becky our office manager is as nice as apple pie!  And we have greeter dogs, Elsker (pronounced el-ska) and Charlie, who are in our office to greet you.  Just one dog per day comes to the office.  We have coffee and tea for you in a waiting area where music is playing and the walls are decorated with city and country scene water colors by a Fort Collins artist.

I believe in my patients, and help them believe in themselves too!

I believe in my patients and their amazing ability they have to work through the most difficult of depressions. I don't impose my ideas on them, but work with the abilities they already have and make them stronger so they can overcome what is in their way. I just have to find what is getting in their way and help them remove those barriers by putting the right tools in their hands.  This is often quite complicated, as I will explain.

These tools I give my patients can include medication, counseling and education, so they have a deeper, more sophisticated understanding of what is getting in their way and keeping them depressed.  I don't force medication or any ideas on people.  I respect their independance and freedom to choose what they want to do!

I prescribe medication with your goals in mind...

Regarding medication: I am up to date with the latest medications and can prescribe antidepressants or herbal medications.  Many antidepressants however, backfire.  They have side effects like sexual side effects, weight gain, lack of motivation.  I know of what antidepressants don't have those side effects. For instance, the antidepressant trazodone, often used for sleep, can sometimes be increased slowly to a high enough dose to work against depression, and it has almost no risk for sexual side effects or weight gain or lowering motivation.

Regarding counseling: I constantly am asking my patients what they are learning from their counsellor and supporting that...and making sure my medications support that work as well.  I can tell when a person's thinking is fighting the medication, and when the medication is fighting the benefit of counseling.  For instance, a person who is an adult may be learning to "not care" if he is not pleasing his hovering parent, and so I won't undermine that progress by too quickly increasing the antidepressant which might help him make the same progress.

Regarding education:  This too is used to reinforce the truth that every person is a whole person.  I don't throw "medication at problems."  Medication helps only for symptoms.  It doesn't help a person learn to be wise and out think their problems. I help them learn to out think their problems, and reinforce that learning if they are working with someone else in counseling.  For instance, if a person is learning to accept that if they have romantic affections for someone else, that other person may not share the same feelings for her, I praise their deep understanding that they can't be demanding others return their romantic feelings.  Accepting others' freedom developes their character and makes them, in turn, more loveable by becoming more wise and understanding.  Another example, I show how exercise ramps up the power of an antidepressant, helping them improve memory, focus and motivation, and a healthy diet helps the brain "hardwire" that new behavior so it becomes more automatic.  To help education, I have about 150 articles in my website here, Good Day Journal, which has had about 100,000 visitors each year for the past five years.  It has reached about 500,000 people!  Information is incredibly powerful when a person is trying to change their behavior by making more "informed decisions."

I believe in what works for you...

I believe in whatever works and has scientific validity-- a scientific study to show a certain tool works more than a sugar pill.  I am a pragmatist, I believe in what works.  And I am an optimist.  I believe in the incredible ability of the human spirit to overcome the most overwhelming obstacles.  I see many herbal medications are a beautiful idea but just don't work, they waste people's time and money.  But a few herbal preparations work, so I prescribe them.  I try not to waste people's time and money.  I work with many patients who are upset by other doctors and others who have wasted their time and money prescribing things that don't work: whether it was medications, herbal supplements, or "alternative" things like dream therapy, mystical counseling and the like.  Let's be real.  The economy we have is leaving many people with little money left over for health care.  It just isn't ethical to be recommending treatments to people that are expensive and don't have a good scientific reason to believe they are going to do any good.

I am all about doing what works and not wasting people's time and money!  A comprehensive approach is what works the best I've found, as I will explain below.

A comprehensive approach is what works the best for beating depression...

Today, more than ever before, there are effective tools at people's fingertips to take control of depression.  Still many people just use one method or another, and many find their mood gets better...then worse again, when stressful situations hit. It is easy for situational stress to "counteract" the benefits you are getting from positive thinking, exercise or medication or other strategies to control depression.


A Wholistic Medical Approach Prevents Relapses In Depression

Depression is a problem with the brain, and the brain's chemistry responds to many influences: biological, psychological (our thoughts) and social influences.  

You can feel better from making a change in one area, and have that progress "set back" by doing something negative in another area.  I see this happen all the time!  Just because you are feeling better in your mood with a medication doesn't mean your brain has suddenly become "immune" and won't feel bad when you quit exercising, start dwelling on things you can't change or can't control, or dwell on the past.

Negative thinking and negative actions counteract progress made with medication.

My patient's are smart, they know they are making matters worse by dwelling on the negative.  They just don't know how to stop.  They feel compelled to dwell on the negative...  I teach them some simple tricks to beat procrastination, with what I call "procrastination busters."  When they apply these techniques, they defeat the hold procrastination has on them, and they start doing things that work with the medication and help their depression get better. 

This is one example of how effective approaches to treating depression have to deal with the biological, psychological and social issues all at once.  This is a major part of my work with patient to help them continue to make progress in their mood.

This is a higher level of sophistication in treating depression than just prescribing a medication.

Quite often what people get when they go for help is a  one dimensional treatment.  The doctor just prescribes a medication, an herbalist just prescribes herbs, a psychotherapist just does psychotherapy or just does education on how to deal with social situational stresses. A chiropractor adjusts bones, a naturopath prescribes herbal remedies.

One dimensional thinking--that approach is too simple.  I have to say, however, that many health care practitioners in the area are excellent at knowing when a person needs to use medication and when their life situation is complicated and the patient needs to see a  psychiatrist. And they are getting better and better at thinking in a comprehensive fashion.

Here is an example of this wholistic medical appraoch to treating depression and how it will keep you making progress in fighting depression:

Often with depression, the medication quits working when the person doesn't know how to deal with situational stress and stress gets overwhelming.  Or a person does good coping strategies, but the brain isn't responding to them because of a chemical imbalance that needs to be corrected with medication.  For example, one person I recently saw, started responding to an antidepressant when she started eating three meals per day, cut caffeine to one cup per day, and an antianxiety medication taken three times per day controlled her panic attacks.  These were all interventions that dealt with factors that stopped her brain from responding to an antidepressant.  It took time and patience, but after several weeks, her depression got better, her energy and motivation improved, and she was on the recovery path.

I use three main methods for turning depression around with a wholistic approach, as I noted earlier:

Biological methods include: medication, herbal medications, healthier diet, using not too much or too little of caffeine, exercise. The role of medication is to control the extreme symptoms of anxiety and depression so the brain is calmer and better able to respond to the new thinking learned in psychotherapy. Medications include the dozen or so antidepressants, as well as "helper" medications, such as wellbutrin, thyroid hormone, ritalin, buspar, anti anxiety medication, mood stabilizers like lamictal and abilify, and newer medications like saphris, commonly used for bipolar.  There are also many other medications used to help antidepressants.  Also some MAO inhibitors are used, like parnate or the patch emsam.  So there are many medications to choose from! 

People often don't want to take care of themselves by taking medication, exercising, eating right, etc.  I remind them that if it was their teeth or their heart--they would not be complaining about what they had to do to take care of their teeth or heart. Letting their teeth go is very expensive and letting your heart decline with heart disease, well, can be fatal! Letting your brain go can be just as devastating! Not wanting to take care of your brain, by imposing some idea that a person "shouldn't" have to take medication or eat right or exercise, is just rationalizing ignorance and laziness and wishful thinking.  The body doesn't magically take care of itself without any effort.  Your teeth will rot if you don't brush them! 

Every part of your body needs to be taken care of, that is part of taking responsibility for taking care of yourself.  That's just common sense. But the low energy and low motivation of depression often influence people to do just what will keep the depression going. That's what makes it such a sinister illness and the number two cause in the world of being unable to work, according to the World Health Organization.  I encourage people to use their common sense and don't let a disease like depression distract them from using their good sense!  It often takes some counseling to help them defeat the low energy and low motivation and pessimistic thinking that are a common part of depression.

Psychological methods I use include: reinforcing what a patient is learning from their psychologist or pastor or others.  And helping a patient learn how to think in a more effective way to avoid stress.  At times I will do brief counseling in 15 to 30 minute visits or refer a patient to another person for counseling, and I then will just work with medication.

I point out, when I can, how a patient by focusing on "the positive" is not "stopping the medication from working." I am familiar with the major approaches to counseling, so I can support what a therapist is doing, whether it is from a cognitive behavioral approach or other approaches. 

The cognitive behavioral therapy or  CBT approach emphasizes thinking and doing things in a rational way, doing what "makes sense."  The interpersonal approach focuses on thinking first about what is good for the family, the relationship, and doing what works for that relationship.  Learning relationship skills, like opening up about what bothers you, and such things.  The mindfulness approach focuses on working with, not against, the way things are.  Being kind, patient, accepting, thinking more deeply and making better informed decisions as a result.  Mindfulness also uses meditation.  A major source of stress often is from a person fighting or resisting things that can't be changed, such as losing a job when their company downsized, or when a loved one passed away.  Meditation helps a person accept and work with those things a person can't change. 

The third method is working with social and environmental influences. Often with depression, people experience some kind of situational stress.  It might be a break up with someone they were dating, someone has died, there are problems with the legal system.  Perhaps there is financial stress or grades have been dropping at school.  Some people find their boss is harrassing them or a coworker has become a thorn in their side.  Other people this past year experienced tragedy, and their house was burned in the High Park Fire.  Still others might face cancer or other medical illnesses, which cause problems with finances, work and family issues.  Some of these situations obviously can't be controlled, but often there are aspects we can find that a person can control and that is what I encourage people to focus on and build upon as they seek to deal more effectively with a stressful situation and find a way to open a new chapter in their life.

To support these efforts, I have authored more than 100 hours of educational audio files and several books which I can give to patients if they are interested.

In all my efforts, I strive to use the highest standards of medical care, and provide advice based on the latest in medical science studies.

If you are interested in me working with you, please give my office a call at 970-416-8354.  Thank you for considering me as someone who might be of service to you.  I consider it the highest honor to work for others as their physician.

Harris Jensen, MD