Can Depression Be Treated Without Medication?

Can Depression Be Treated Without Medication?

image for medications that cause depressionDepression can touch every part of your life. Therapy and medicine are a common treatment plan. Some people may not want to take medicine. You may have heard of other ways to treat it. Some may help, but it is important to know the facts.

Your treatment plan is based on your needs. Depression treatment will be based on:

  • Cause of the depression
  • Your symptoms
  • How long you have been depressed

You should work with your care team to find a plan that works for you. Depression can get worse if it is not treated. Here are some of the choices that may help treat depression.


There is more than one type of counseling. Look for one they may better fit your needs. You may change therapy as treatment progresses. Common choices for depression are:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)—teaches you how to spot negative thinking patterns and behaviors and how to change them.
  • Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy—combines CBT with mindfulness meditation. Interpersonal therapy—talk about your relationships with others and the roles that you play.
  • Psychodynamic therapy—looks at how things you may not be aware of affect how you think, feel, and act. This therapy can be short- or long-term.

Find a therapist you feel comfortable with. Therapy will be less successful if you are not comfortable being honest. Therapy may be one on one, in a group, or both.

Herbs and Supplements

Some herbs and supplements may help to ease depression symptoms. Those that have shown some promise are:

  • Saffron
  • 5-Hydroxytryptophan
  • Folate and B-vitamins—many people with depression lack folate. It may help when combined with antidepressants.
  • Lavender
  • Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oils)
  • Rhodiola
  • S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe)(Note: should not be taken by people who have bipolar disorder)
  • Vitamin D3
  • St. John’s Wort —there is a high risk of serious reactions with other drugs. Talk to your doctor before taking St. Johns wort.

Supplements are not well regulated in the US. This means that you may never be sure of the how much you get in each product. Supplements can also interact with some medicine or other medical treatment. Talk to your care team before starting any herb or supplement.

Other Therapies

Other types of therapy that may ease depression symptoms are:

  • Mindfulness-based therapy—combination of therapy and meditation
  • Meditation
  • Music therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Massage therapy
  • Yoga
  • Tai Chi

These therapies will need commitment over time.


Exercise can help to with depression. Look for activities you enjoy. These can be group or solo events. It can range from gym programs to running, hiking, or dancing at home to online classes. The goal is to do some activity on most days of the week. Even a short walk at lunch can help to ease stress and improve mood.

Taking the Next Step

Work with your care team. Let them know what your treatment goals are. It may be possible to build a treatment plan with some steps above instead of medicine. However, medicine may be needed to help you get started. Ask how long you may need to take it. Make a treatment plan that includes things you want to try like exercise. Using more than one tool may help you now and later.


American Psychiatric Association
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance


Canadian Psychiatric Association


Depression. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: Updated February 2018. Accessed June 17, 2020.
Depression alternative treatments. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dyname.... Updated November 1, 2019. Accessed June 17, 2020.
Depression (mild to moderate). EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at:
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Updated August 2019. Accessed June 17, 2020.
Different approaches to psychotherapy. American Psychological Association website. Available at:
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Accessed June 17, 2020.
Major depressive disorder (MDD). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated April 6, 2020. Accessed June 17, 2020.
Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Last Updated: 6/17/2020

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