What are the Alternative Treatments for Depression?


Psychotherapy is a broad term used to refer to the many varieties of counseling or talk therapy available today. This is an important treatment option for people with depression and is often used in combination with medication. Research from NPF’s 2012 Parkinson’s Outcome Project found that rates for depression were lowest among patients receiving care from clinics with the most active approach to counseling. Here are ways therapy can be beneficial.

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), one technique that has been shown to be very effective, helps people change negative thinking patterns and behaviors in order to reduce symptoms of depression. Learning these skills helps people cope better and think positively for the long term.  
  • Counseling sessions can provide vital support, understanding and education. Patients may be seen alone, as a couple or family, or in a group.
  • Psychotherapy offers an alternative to antidepressants. Some people with PD may not tolerate, respond fully, or want to take an antidepressant.

Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)

Another form of treatment for severe or non-responsive depression is electroconvulsive therapy, also known as shock therapy. Though people often think negatively about shock therapy, it is the most effective treatment available for severe depression, and it also temporarily improves motor symptoms in PD. The major drawbacks include: the time involved in getting the treatment, the need to undergo general anesthesia many times, and possible memory problems and/or confusion as a complication of treatment.


Exercise has been found to be a simple therapeutic approach for improving mood and depression. It can include walking, stretching, yoga, tai-chi and all basic forms of physical activity.

Non-Conventional and Complementary Therapies for Depression

  • Light therapy
  • Relaxation Techniques
  • Massage Therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Aromatherapy
  • Meditation
  • Music Therapy

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Medical content reviewed by: Nina Browner, MD—Medical Director of the NPF Center of Excellence at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in North Carolina and by Fernando Pagan, MD—Medical Director of the NPF Center of Excellence at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C.

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