Next fall I will teach “Counseling & Physiology” for the first time so I am beginning now to plan through such a course. It’s my intention to use Fridays to blog on counseling stuff related to the brain and biology. Here’s my first post:
The March issue of the APA Monitor on Psychology magazine has an article on the use of deep brain stimulation for chronic and untreatable depression (after failures with medicine and ECT). DBS is a surgical procedure, first pioneered to stop Parkinsonian tremors, where electrodes are placed in the subgenual cingulate region and a “pacemaker” produces electrical current to the electrodes on a continuous basis. You can read about DBS here on wikipedia. The studies are small as of yet but the FDA has already approved this procedure for OCD patients.
This surgical procedure seems to produce positive feelings and relief from the depression. So, does this mean that depression is merely a biological problem? No. This is why medicines are quite helpful but it is counseling that maintains the relief from depressive symptoms.
Bottom line: Depression is a multi-faceted disorder–both from an etiological standpoint and from a treatment standpoint. One must consider biology, spirituality, cognition, and behavior. These areas are not mutually exclusive as work in one area has impact on the others. Efficacious treatment not only seeks to resolve the depression but also to consider how to live well–whether in a depressive state or not.