Treating depression differently – Planete sante

It is the most common mental illness in Switzerland and its prevalence is constantly increasing. Sadness, loss of momentum and pleasure, fatigue, feelings of guilt and worthlessness, dark thoughts, etc. Description of depression. To dispel this dullness of the soul and restore the will to live, we recommend psychotherapy associated or not associated with medication, especially antidepressants. Today, complementary and alternative therapies complete the offer of care.


In terms of psychotherapy first, cognitive and behavioral therapies (CBT) have gradually evolved, now allowing support through various electronic media, including emails, telephone interviews, online modules or smartphone apps. Thus, the patient can follow the CBT independently or accompanied by a therapist. This form of CBT has been shown to be comparable in effectiveness to its face-to-face counterpart. Online CBT platforms, which offer questionnaires or videos, are also useful prevention tools, such as to stop For the treatment of depression in young people between the ages of 16 and 25. This digital device provides this segment of the population with the possibility to communicate with other affected persons. Overall, these remote approaches, aimed at treatment and prevention, have the advantage of increasing access to CBT and decreasing costs. However, they require the patient’s ability and willingness to engage in and self-monitor, which requires prior work by the GP to identify eligible patients for these psychotherapeutic modalities.

in music

Music therapy has also proven to be a short-term complementary treatment for severe forms of depression, from 12 to 48 sessions over six to twelve weeks. This creative and artistic therapy leads patients to compose or listen to music, individually or in groups. In addition to improving a person’s overall performance, it will also have a positive effect on anxiety. Finally, it has the advantage of being free of side effects. Music therapy sessions can be compensated by some complementary insurances as long as the therapist is registered with the Register of Alternative Medicine or the Swiss Foundation for Complementary Medicine.

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In preventing a depressive relapse, mindfulness meditation is now a recognized and remedial approach if part of cognitive therapy.

Use of plants

In herbal medicine, to date, St. John’s wort is the only herb that can be prescribed as the sole treatment for mild depression. Its effectiveness has been proven and its reimbursement is guaranteed through the basic health insurance. But other plants will also have interesting virtues against depression and can now be offered as complementary therapies. These are excerpts from Rhodiola rosea (or golden root) and glycyrrhizic acid. The first grows at high altitudes in Europe and Asia. Its extracts have been used for decades in traditional medicine. Its mechanism of action is not clearly understood, but it appears to have the ability to affect the levels and activity of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine in the central nervous system. Glycyrrhizic acid, extracted from the roots Licorice glabraIt will have an inhibitory action in provoking and amplifying neuroinflammation present in depression. There are few contraindications to the use of these plants, but they are not recommended as a first-line treatment due to the limited studies on the subject.

The benefits of light therapy

Phototherapy is recommended as a first-line treatment for seasonal depression, which is a form of depression that occurs in the fall and winter due to reduced light. This method consists of exposing yourself daily for about 20 to 30 minutes to 10,000 lux (daylight intensity) using a suitable lamp. Note that prior consultation with an ophthalmologist is necessary in case of eye diseases. This treatment, which is estimated to be about 60% effective, can be covered by basic health insurance. The doctor must provide a prescription outlining the diagnosis of seasonal depression and mentioning the purchase or rental of the device.


* Adapted from Kamdem, G., B., et al. New developments in non-pharmacological treatments for depression. Make way for a more integrated approach. Rev. Med Switzerland. 2022; 8 (797): 1809-1811.

appeared in Planete Santé Magazine No. 48 – March 2023

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