Depression Therapy in Oakland & San Francisco
Psychotherapy for Depression
Whether you are suffering from consistent low moods, or are crippled by a dread that makes it difficult to function at work or in your social life, I offer effective, compassionate, creative therapy to help to ease your suffering.
I understand how painful depression can be. Depression can you feel as though life is not worth living, nothing is enjoyable, and nothing will ever change. As convincing as these thoughts can be, they are actually only symptoms of depression, not reality. Through the safety, compassion, connection, and insight of the therapeutic process, you can deepen your understanding of the source of your depression and learn to feel alive again.
Through psychotherapy I offer insights, associations, and interpretations that can provide relief from your suffering and help you believe that you are not alone in your suffering.. It is my highest priority to find a way to connect with you and make sure you that you feel that I am with you in your struggles. All progress, and healing stems from the trust that I am able to earn from you. Since therapy is an art as much as it is a science, I have a unique relationship with everyone I work with, and thoroughly enjoy the creative process of learning how to connect with each and every client.
You can be reassured that you are receiving highly effective treatment, since I also incorporate empirically relevant scientific findings into my work with clients. I utilize my theoretical background, my past clinical experience and life experience, as well as my emotional experience of you as the client in my presence. For more on what depression is and where it comes from, read below. Contact me using the links below if you would like to consult with me about whether I am the right therapist for you.
If you are struggling, contact me to find out how I can help.
“I’ve had the good fortune of being a colleague of John’s for over 15 years when we begin working together at a day treatment school for children. My admiration and respect for his clinical mind was immediate, and has grown and grown over all the years since. John’s dedication to his work is inspiring, and I count him as one of the most compassionate, thoughtful, caring and ethical practitioners I know. I think the combination of John’s intellect, humanity, and openness make him a very effective therapist.”
~ Greg Villalba, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, San Francisco, CA
What is Depression?
Depression is a complex and misunderstood diagnosis. It is commonly used to describe symptoms ranging from sadness to feelings of wanting to hurt oneself, and everything in between. In this section I will describe the range of symptoms we refer to as depression, where they come from, and how therapy can help alleviate them.
Many people with symptoms of mild depression don’t usually know it. They might say they are unmotivated, confused, or aimless. They might notice that they don’t have the energy or passion they once had, that they don’t enjoy things the way they used to, or that life just doesn’t seem as rich as it did before. Some people have felt this way for so long that they can’t remember feeling different. They have a vague sense they are in a rut, but think “maybe this is just what life feels like as you get older” or something of the kind. They may feel that their work is boring, and their relationships don’t hold much interest for them either.
This may sound like I’m describing a lot of people. Mild to moderate depression is quite common, and most people who don’t qualify for a diagnosis in the strict sense suffer from symptoms of depression at one time or another. These symptoms, while “normal” (i.e. most people have them) don’t mean there is nothing to be done about them.
Isn’t This Just Life?
Well, yes and no. As I said, it is “normal” for people to have these feelings at one time or another. The problems come when depressive symptoms stick around for a while and slowly but surely creep in to affect various areas of one’s life. People with such symptoms often try various methods including self-help books, talking to friends at length, vacations, moving, shopping, or even taking drugs to try to bring joy back into their life.
No two people are alike. The same thing is true for depression. Depression can have many causes. It can result from a trauma, loss, difficult childhood, (an incredibly broad idea that I will expound on later), health problems, or other experiences. For example, many people suffer from anxiety for so long that they feel hopeless (a symptom of depression) which leads to lack of motivation, loss of interest in activities, and sometimes even thoughts of hurting or killing themselves. If the anxiety had been addressed first, they may not have developed the depression.
Many people have been suffering from a low-level of depression since childhood. Suffering during childhood is where some of the serious “knots” are created. I cannot describe here the extensive range of scenarios that can lead to depression stemming from childhood, but will give a couple examples to work from.
First example: A boy grows up with a father who has a very short temper. The boy is afraid of his father and looks for ways that he can try to stay safe and prevent his father from getting angry. With his little kid mind, he assumes that he is somehow causing his father’s anger, and he surmises that if he simply pleases his father in every way he can and tries to be the perfect kid, his father will not get angry.
This boy develops the unconscious habit of trying to be perfect. There is a problem. No one is perfect, and his idea of perfection is avoiding whatever his father didn’t like. So what does he do with all the parts of him that don’t fit into that model. He has no choice but to push them down, or repress them, because that’s what kids do.
Fast forward 30 years. The boy has become a man who doesn’t know what he wants in life, doesn’t seem to enjoy much, but is a very responsible father and husband. He developed the habit keeping his own desires off the table, so much so that he is now depressed. The layers that you can see here are like an onion. On the inside, we have the fear of his father when he would get angry, the response of trying to be perfect, and the repression of his own desires, this system locked away in the back of his mind and the outside layer is a man who feels pride in being a good father and husband, but doesn’t really know himself. This is one example of what may happen in childhood to call depression. If you add other variables, such as a depressed mother, or a family history of substance abuse, and you can see how we can have a very complex onion. Depression therapy can help.
Psychoanalytic therapy is about uncovering these complex layers and allowing that man to express himself freely again.
I should add that every emotional disorder has a biological/genetic component, or loading. After all, they occur in the brain. However, this is not to say that if your parent has it then you will automatically develop it. The most useful model for understanding the relationship is one in which there appear to be genes which act to increase the chances that certain symptoms will arise IF the significant stressors arise to provide the environment for it. One way to think of this is to think of how our bodies are more prone to getting a cold virus when we are stressed. We can fight off the virus with our natural body defenses until the stresses overwhelm us- e.g. we are cold, wet, and sleep deprived.