A young mother tries CBT for postpartum depression.

Reasons to Try CBT for Postpartum Depression

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help people with postpartum depression process their depressive symptoms and develop healthy coping strategies.


share icon Facebook logo LinkedIn logo

How CBT treats postpartum depression

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) treats postpartum depression (also known as perinatal depression) by helping people identify and challenge negative thought patterns and beliefs that contribute to their depressive symptoms. A therapist guides a person with postpartum depression to recognize and change their negative thought patterns and teaches coping skills to manage stress and improve mood. Additionally, CBT helps people with postpartum depression develop healthier behaviors and habits to better manage their postpartum depression symptoms. Through the process of CBT, a person can learn to effectively cope with postpartum depression and make lasting changes to improve their overall well-being and manage their depressive disorder.

Skills taught in CBT for postpartum depression

The skills taught in CBT for postpartum depression are designed to empower people to change their thoughts, behaviors, and emotions in order to cope with the challenges of new parenthood and achieve improved mental well-being. These skills include:

Cognitive restructuring

This skill involves learning to identify and change negative thought patterns related to postpartum depression. People are taught to challenge and reframe unhelpful thoughts and beliefs about motherhood, their abilities, and their self-worth.

Behavioral activation

This skill focuses on increasing people’s engagement in positive and meaningful activities, even when they feel unmotivated or overwhelmed with negative thoughts or responsibilities. It helps a new mother develop a routine that includes self-care, social support, and enjoyable activities.

Relaxation techniques

In CBT for postpartum depression, people are taught various relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness meditation to manage anxiety and stress associated with postpartum depression.

Problem-solving skills

This skill helps people with postpartum depression identify and address challenges they may face as new parents. It teaches them how to break down problems into manageable steps, consider different solutions, and make informed decisions.

Communication skills

Learning effective communication skills can help people express their needs, set boundaries, and seek support from their partner, family, and friends—skills that are essential for new parents, especially those struggling with postpartum depression. It also involves learning to overcome barriers and misunderstandings in relationships.

Parenting strategies

This skill focuses on teaching people practical parenting strategies and coping mechanisms to manage the demands of caring for a newborn while coping with postpartum depression. It covers topics such as soothing techniques, infant sleep, and coping with infant crying, among other topics.


People with postpartum depression are encouraged to prioritize self-care activities such as adequate sleep, nutrition, exercise, and seeking support from others. They learn to set realistic expectations for themselves and seek help when needed.

Social support

Building a strong support network is essential for managing postpartum depression. People are taught to seek support from their partner, family, friends, and healthcare providers and to communicate their needs effectively. Building connections with other mothers or perinatal women can also be helpful. 

Goal setting

In CBT for postpartum depression, people are guided in setting realistic and achievable goals related to their recovery from postpartum depression. They learn to prioritize their goals, track their progress, and celebrate their achievements, no matter how small.

Benefits of CBT for postpartum depression

CBT has been shown to have long-term benefits for people experiencing postpartum depression. Through its focus on changing negative thought patterns and behaviors, CBT can help people develop coping skills that can continue to benefit them even after the therapy sessions have ended. This can lead to reduced risk of relapse and a greater ability to manage their depressive symptoms over the long term. Additionally, CBT can improve overall mental health and well-being, leading to better relationships and overall quality of life for people struggling with postpartum depression.

How quickly does CBT work for postpartum depression? 

Research shows that CBT typically begins to show effectiveness in reducing symptoms of postpartum depression within several months. People who engage in regular CBT sessions and practice the techniques learned often report improvements in their mood and overall well-being. It is important for people experiencing postpartum depression to seek help from a qualified therapist and to continue with treatment as prescribed in order to see the full benefits of CBT.

Coping skills for postpartum depression

In addition to therapy, these coping skills may help people deal with the challenges of postpartum depression:

Support from loved ones

Having the support of family and friends can provide a sense of comfort and reassurance for a new mother coping with a depressive disorder. Talking openly with people close to you can help alleviate feelings of isolation and provide a much-needed emotional outlet. 

Self-care routines

Establishing a regular self-care routine, such as taking daily walks, practicing mindfulness or meditation, and setting aside time for personal hobbies, can help manage symptoms of postpartum depression. Taking time for oneself is crucial for perinatal women to maintain mental and emotional well-being.

Joining support groups

Joining a support group for people experiencing postpartum depression can provide a sense of community and understanding. Connecting with others who are going through similar experiences can offer valuable insight, validation, and encouragement.

Other types of treatment for postpartum depression

Here are some kinds of treatment that may help people with postpartum depression:

Interpersonal therapy

This therapy focuses on improving relationships and communication skills and addressing any conflicts or stressors that may be contributing to a person’s postpartum depression.

Mindfulness-based Therapy

This type of therapy teaches people to be present in the moment and to accept their thoughts and feelings without judgment. It can help people manage stress and anxiety associated with postpartum depression.

IOP for postpartum depression

An intensive outpatient program (IOP) is used to treat postpartum depression when a person requires more structured and frequent support than traditional therapy sessions. IOP typically involves group therapy and individual counseling sessions to address the complex emotional and mental health challenges that can arise after giving birth. It provides a supportive and comprehensive approach to help people learn coping skills, process their emotions, and develop a recovery plan. This program also incorporates CBT techniques to challenge negative thought patterns and promote positive behavior changes.

Treatment for postpartum depression at Charlie Health 

If a young person in your life is struggling with postpartum or perinatal depression, Charlie Health is here to help. Charlie Health offers a virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) that provides more than once-weekly mental health treatment for young people and families dealing with complex mental health conditions, including postpartum depression and other perinatal mental health conditions like postpartum anxiety and postpartum OCD. Our expert clinicians incorporate cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) into individual counseling, family therapy, and group sessions. With this kind of holistic treatment, managing your postpartum depression symptoms is possible. Fill out the form below or give us a call to start healing today. 

Charlie Health shield logo

Comprehensive mental health treatment from home

90% of Charlie Health clients and their families would recommend Charlie Health

Girl smiling talking to her mother

We're building treatment plans as unique as you.