On your road to treatment, your primary care doctor may be your first stop. A good primary care doctor can assess your symptoms with an eye to whether you have any underlying medical problems. If your doctor believes that depression is the main problem, he or she may refer you for psychotherapy or suggest an antidepressant. Sometimes the initial response to the first treatment is good. If so, you may not need to go further.
However, if your doctor prescribes a medication but it is not helpful, the next step may be to see a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, or psychiatric nurse. Most primary care doctors aren't equipped to do a more detailed review of the mood problem or to take treatment further with psychotherapy or different medications.
You can also find a mental health professional through a local clinic or hospital or through recommendations from family members or friends. While some insurance plans leave the choice of therapist up to you, others limit you to professionals enrolled in their networks. Therefore, it's worthwhile to check with your insurer before choosing a doctor.
Since states have different requirements about who may hang out a shingle as a therapist, inquire about the therapist's training, and opt only for one who has been formally trained and certified (see "10 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Therapist").
If your symptoms are mild or moderate, it is often reasonable to start with either medication or psychotherapy. Generally, as symptoms become more severe, it is more important to consider medication earlier in your treatment.