Therapy to treat postpartum mood disorders: Seven common types

If you’ve never been to therapy before, it’s easy to assume that all therapy sessions are like the ones you see in the movies. A chaise or a couch where you lay there and talk about your feelings for an hour while a shrink in glasses scribbles notes and hands you tissues. In truth, that’s really not at all what modern therapy looks like. Yes, there is talking, and yes, there may be tears. But today mental health professionals use several types of therapy, either one or a combination, to treat postpartum mood disorders like depression and anxiety.

Therapy is definitely not one-size-fits all: a good therapist will tailor your treatment to the issues you’re struggling with, the time you have to commit to therapy, and your personal preferences and personality. Here are a few different types of therapy they might use:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy teaches patients how to identify and re-write that negative internal dialogue that centers around feelings of inadequacy as a mother and feelings of guilt for not enjoying a new infant. Cognitive behavioral therapy will work on coping skills, controlled breathing, and building a personal model of resilience that builds on existing strengths.

Cognitive Processing Therapy is a specific type of cognitive behavioral therapy that has been effective in reducing symptoms of PTSD (including postpartum PTSD that can develop after experiencing trauma such as infant loss or traumatic birth). Its goal is to help patients learn how to challenge and modify unhelpful beliefs related to the trauma to develop a new understanding of the event and reduce its ongoing negative effects on everyday life.

Behavioral Activation Therapy is a talk therapy that involves specific methods and techniques that help women change their routine to promote a sense of accomplishment and enjoyment and reduce the kind of task-avoiding and stewing that comes with depression.

Interpersonal Psychotherapy is designed to improveproblematicrelationships or circumstances to reduce their impact on depression symptoms (and vice versa).This type of therapy relies on communication skills that help build healthy relationships, social support networks, and confidence.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy teaches coping skills for how to manage intense emotions in the moment, like stress, hopelessness, guilt, worry, fear, and anger. The “dia” in “dialectical” means “two” — in this type of therapy, you’re working on two things at once: accepting yourself in the present moment (even the hard ones) and changing the way you react to intense emotions through a series of practical coping skills.

Group Therapy relies on a community of women who are going through similar things to work through treatment together. Groups are led by a trained therapist who facilitates the conversation, helps identify problem areas that come up in the discussion, and guides members to individually and collectively come up with tactics or ideas that can help. Group therapy can offer important validation to new moms, especially early in motherhood who feel unheard or alone in their struggles by providing a support network with shared feelings and experiences.

Art Therapy uses guided art exercises and projects in a variety of media (paint, clay, textiles, etc.) to facilitate expression without having to find the words. Art therapy, which is led by a specially trained therapist, is often used alongside other forms of therapy to work on self-esteem and self-awareness, strengthen emotional resilience, uncover insights, and reduce stress and anxiety. For more information about therapy, including our groundbreaking outpatient program, visit The Alexis Joy D’Achille Center at Allegheny Health Network.


If you feel that you’re in deep depression and you fear that there is immediate danger, such as self-harm or harm to your baby, please call 911 or 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) for help.

To find support and resources outside of Western PA, contact Postpartum Support International at or call 1-800-944-4773.

To find out more information about how AHN Women is innovating the treatment of postpartum depression and anxiety, follow AHN on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

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