Jennifer Rollin speaks with Lisa Savage, LCSW.
Jennifer: Tell me about yourself, your experience, and your practice.
Lisa: I’m an LCSW practicing in the state of Delaware. I have two private practices–one that specializes in seeing children and the other adults. I’ve been in practice since 1998.
In my adult practice, I specialize in working with women who have depression or anxiety stemming from childhood trauma.
Jennifer: What are some important questions that you ask patients who are struggling with depression?
Lisa: I like to start off getting an idea of how severe the depression is. I focus on asking questions that will help me understand if the depression is affecting the quality of life including family and work responsibilities. I would ask questions like– What is your sleep pattern? How is your appetite? Are you able to concentrate? Do you find enjoyment in things? Are you doing the basic things like taking a shower, combing your hair, getting dressed?
The most important question is: “Do you feel hopeless?” and if so, exactly what does that mean? For some people, it can mean they feel suicidal. For others, it could indicate feeling stuck and perhaps resolved to feel depressed. If a person expresses feeling suicidal, it could mean that treatment takes a different course depending on how serious they are. General feelings of hopelessness are not uncommon in a depressed person but can be resolved in time.
Jennifer: How can clients with depression take care of themselves without giving into depressive urges (i.e. the balance between sleeping more if tired)? What if oversleeping is contributing to the depression?
Lisa: I like to engage clients in a self-care plan. It doesn’t have to be too intense in the beginning but it does involve some level of commitment. For example: I will shower at least three times this week. I will eat at least three meal every day. I will take a five-minute walk four times this week.
I have them keep a journal for accountability. I stress the importance of being nonjudgmental and practicing self-compassion which are often issues for people with depression. Through this process, they learn how to take better care of themselves, get a better understanding of how they can take control over their depressed mood and ultimately, become their best cheerleader in the recovery process.
Jennifer: What are some of your top tips for someone who is struggling with depression?
Lisa: Be patient. Recovery is possible, but it is a process.
There will be days when you don’t feel like doing anything. Try to do something. Every little effort put into getting better makes a huge difference in feeling better.
Make sure you have a team of people who support and understand you. Do not look for support from people who make no effort to understand what you’re going through.
Do not judge your feelings. Remember to have compassion for yourself.
Challenge the beliefs you hold about your depression:”I’ll always feel this way.” Ask yourself if that is realistic and if you can, try to reframe that thought. For example: `I feel depressed now but I believe I will overcome this.’
Find a therapist that you can trust and with whom you feel safe. There are lots of therapists, but the one who will be the best fit for you is the one you feel safe with and have confidence in their ability to help you.
Jennifer: What are some coping strategies that you might suggest to someone who is struggling with depression?
Lisa: I find that journaling is very helpful in coping with depression. The journal can provide a space for a person to describe their feelings, track their moods, and most importantly, mark their progress.
Keep to a schedule. Get up and go to bed at the same time.
Again, having a support person who understands depression is important. Often times, people who are depressed feel isolated. In part, it’s because others don’t understand it. If you have a circle of friends or even one person who can be there for you, it helps a lot.
Jennifer: If someone is struggling with depression and feels like nothing they are trying is helping, what would you say to him or her?
Lisa: I would assure them that those thoughts are normal. When a person is depressed, feelings of hopelessness are very common. As a therapist, it is important to help the client maintain hope even when they are struggling to see it.
It’s also important for the therapist to gently challenge the negative thoughts as they typically contribute to depression. All of us have core beliefs that either help or hurt depression. A good therapist can help a client understand their negative core beliefs and then help them replace them with more realistic and hopeful thoughts.
For more information on Lisa Savage, visit: