A Review of “Depression” by Ed Welch

depressionWhen you are emotionally exhausted even a simple task, like reading, can feel like an impossible chore. Experienced counselor Edward T. Welch knows this, and that’s why he has written such a practical, insightful, and concise book on depression to help those who are suffering. The book’s unique design makes Depression: A Stubborn Darkness a great resource for both counselors and sufferers.

Welch views the approach of his book as a “partnership between whys and how tos” (14). That is to say he wants to provide both a renewed framework for addressing the big picture of depression, and practical guidance for dealing with it. Books on depression usually only address the “how tos,” but both aspects of depression are necessary. As Welch writes:

A list of “how tos” can’t speak to issues of purpose, hope, and fundamental questions of existence and belief that depression inevitably raises…When the why questions appear, they will be religious – as all why questions are. they will be about God. Depression, of course, does that – it takes you back to the basic questions of life. Ignore them to focus on the how questions and you might find a temporary shortcut to mental relief, but your heart will still be famished. (14)

This dual focus lends itself so well to being a counseling resource. It will not avoid the big-picture issues which help us think rightly about our depressive experiences, but neither will it forsake the practical counsel needed to get through each day. This approach lends itself well to a diverse array of readers. Since no depressive experience is the same, this book can speak to a wide audience with its dual focus on “why” and on “how to.”

The book is broken down into four parts, each addressing some general aspect of depression counseling. Part one speaks to depression as suffering and helps us develop a theology of suffering and the practical tools we need to endure it. Part two helps us to listen to depression. Here Welch unpacks the “reasons” for suffering, the heart of depression, and some of the accompanying emotions (fear, anger, hopelessness, shame, guilt, etc.). He even speaks to the temptation of suicide in this portion of the book. Part three gives some “Other Help and Advice.” Welch examines, under this heading, medicine and relationships. Part four wraps up the book by examining the roles of humility, hope, thankfulness, and joy in the depressed life. The book avoids simplistic answers but doesn’t hesitate to give real legitimate counsel on issues of sin, heart attitudes, and theological habits. In that regard Welch neither treats the depressed person harshly, nor fragile. In fact, one of the amazing qualities of the book is that even while it maintains a sensitive tone, Welch treats readers like normal people with responsibilities and choices.

The twenty-six chapters might feel a bit overwhelming to the average reader, let alone the depressed person. Yet, the chapters are designed to be short and to the point. Welch writes:

If you are depressed, the chapters that follow are intended to be brief and, at times, provocative. (15)

Their concise, direct, and engaging nature makes them generally manageable and able to be read in a single sitting. They are also designed so that counselors may assign single chapters to a counselee for further study and discussion. As a tool, then, it is just the kind of simple and straightforward resource counselors need to help their friends. While there are no discussion questions at the end of the chapters, there is plenty to discuss and readers will find lots to chew on.

In my own personal struggle with emotional exhaustion I found this book to be a tremendous gift. It doesn’t attempt to be more than it really is, it won’t “fix” everything, but it can be a great resource and tool to help give the depressed person some guidance and hope. I am grateful for this book’s help in my own struggle and it’s usefulness in counseling situations. I highly commend Depression: A Stubborn Darkness to you. Whether you are depressed yourself, or you love someone who is depressed, this book can be a great friend in a difficult time.

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