Bert Nash clients benefit from therapeutic lifestyle changes

Sara Volweider leads the Bert Nash TLC group.

Sara Volweider leads the Bert Nash TLC group. by Jeff Burkhead

Everyone could use some TLC. For people who struggle with depression, that is especially true.

In this case, TLC stands for Therapeutic Lifestyle Change, rather than tender loving care. Preliminary research suggests that Therapeutic Lifestyle Change is an effective treatment for depression.

Bert Nash offers a TLC group that meets every Tuesday. It’s an open group, so a client can join at any point.

“The group is very diverse,” said a client who attends the TLC group. “There are all ages and from all aspects of life. Major depression is something that can affect anybody. As someone who grew up not talking about depression and not understanding it, it’s nice to be able to talk about it with other people who are experiencing the same things and to find out I’m not alone and I’m not crazy.”

TLC includes six core lifestyle elements: Omega-3 fatty acid supplements, which have been shown to have antidepressant properties; anti-rumination strategies (ruminating or dwelling on negative thoughts is a habit many depressed people struggle with); exercise, which have proven to be surprisingly powerful in addressing depressive brain function; light exposure (there can be a seasonal component to depression); social support like family and friends; and training in healthy sleep habits.

“With my health coach background, these lifestyle changes are a natural fit,” said Sara Volweider, a clinical case manager and adult therapist who leads the Bert Nash TLC group; she used to be an AmeriCorps health coach for Bert Nash. “I like that they are all natural strategies and they’re really good for your physical health, too. These strategies are good for anyone.”

The group follows the TLC treatment protocol developed by Dr. Stephen Ilardi, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Kansas, and described in his book, “The Depression Cure.”

“He has so much energy and he so believes in this,” Volweider said of Ilardi. It’s great to be able to collaborate with him.”

According to Ilardi, "Humans were never designed for the sedentary, socially isolated, screen-addicted, indoor, fast-food-laden, sleep-deprived, frenetic pace of 21st-century life. And the result is an epidemic of depressive illness that shows no signs of improving despite a staggering 300 percent increase in antidepressant med usage in the past 20 years. When we look at contemporary aboriginal groups — such as the Kaluli of Papua New Guinea — we find that they almost never experience clinical depression despite leading rather difficult lives. But several features of their lifestyle —abundant physical activity, ample sunlight, rich social networks, plenty of sleep, whole-food nutrition, etc. — have been shown by mountains of research to protect people against depression. And these ‘antidepressant habits’ are the foundation of our TLC approach."

It’s an approach that is working. A Bert Nash client who has been attending the TLC group for about five months found the lifestyle strategies had an immediate impact.

“Before I started coming to the group, I was basically non-functioning, staying in bed 20 hours a day. And in a matter of weeks, it made a huge difference,” the client said. “I’ve tried different medications but without success. The group is the only thing that has made a difference for me. It gives me my power back. I feel in control instead of just being a passenger on this ride I don’t want to be on. It makes me feel like this is something I can fix, and I like that.”

For information about the TLC group as well as other Bert Nash therapy groups, call 785-843-9192 or visit bertnash.org.

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