Haifa U. to Offer Free Counseling for Victims of Depression

University of Haifa. (Zvi Roger)

More people than ever are suffering from clinical depression, and to combat the problem, Haifa University is offering free psychological treatment for those diagnosed with the disease. According to the university, psychological treatment is effective and can help patients as a supplement to other treatments, such as using drugs to control depression.

In Israel, 5.5 percent of the population suffers from the disease, while around the world there has been an 18-percent increase in the number of people diagnosed with clinical depression – and the number is growing considerably every year. More than half of people suffer (or will suffer) from at least one bout of clinical depression in their lives.

While many doctors treat depression with drugs, there are dangers with that course of treatment, particularly with the possibility that patients could get hooked on their medications. While psychological counseling can be effective, it is more labor- and time-consuming than medication, however, and comes with its own risks, according to Professor Segal Zlicha-Mano, who heads the program. “Many patients drop out before the course of treatment is up, and thus do not complete the program,” she said, “We will be offering patients 16 sessions, under which our method of treatment is effective.”

Accordingly to a study by Prof. Zilcha-Mano in cooperation with the research student Avinadav Rubin from the Department of Psychology at the University of Haifa and a team of researchers from the Department of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and Adelphi University in New York. The findings showed that the more an individual expects a positive relationship with the therapist, the greater his or her chances of completing the psychotherapy and the lower the chances of him or her continuing medication, Haifa University said. It was also found that people who show a high level of vindictiveness in their interpersonal relationships are at higher risk of dropping out from the use of medication. Lastly, it was found that people over the age of 45 have a higher chance of completing medication, whereas those below that age have a better chance of completing treatment if they opt for psychotherapy, it said‫.‬

“Within the hopelessness that forms a key part of depression, people try to find the strength to turn to treatment,” Zilcha-Mano said. “When they manage to do so, they sometimes find themselves in therapy that isn’t suitable for them, and accordingly they soon drop out, thereby become even more pessimistic about the chances of overcoming depression. Accordingly, this study has enormous potential to identify the most appropriate treatment for each patient, so that when people find the strength in their depression to seek treatment, they can truly benefit from it.”