Dr. Steve Ilardi

Depression is a debilitating disease that affects as many as 20 million Americans in a year. It can take a terrible toll on health as well as on family and work relationships. Many drugs are prescribed to treat depression, but the evidence is not impressive that they offer most patients great benefit.

Our guest, Dr. Stephen Ilardi, has come up with a number of non-drug approaches that may work at least as well as antidepressants for mild to moderate depression. These lifestyle modifications require effort, but they are inexpensive and don’t have dangerous side effects. Could the cure to depression be within your grasp?

Guest: Stephen S. Ilardi, PhD, is associate professor of clinical psychology at the University of Kansas. His book is The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression without Drugs.

Links for Dr. Ilardi:

The Depression Cure/ Amazon page:


His university homepage:


The page for Therapeutic Lifestyle Change: www.psych.ku.edu/TLC

His Psychology Today blog page:


The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. Podcasts can be downloaded for free for six weeks after the date of broadcast. After that time has passed, digital downloads are available for $2.99. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.

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  1. Sandra Beaty, Ph.D., Psychologist

    I am a private practice psychologist with 30+ years experience in working with clients to alleviate depression. I often use bibliotherapy as an adjunct to therapy and realize that clients often read only a few chapters of the excellent books I loan to them. I heard this show on the radio and recommended the website to several of my clients so they might listen to it. Not only did they listen, they took notes, and made some changes based on the material presented. I am ordering a CD of the program and will loan it to clients in the future, with the hopes that it will increase their understanding of depression. Thank you.

  2. EddieF

    I love the show BUT – he knocked anti dep. too much for me. I know so many people in Multiple Sclerosis group that are on and love it. I took Prozac myself for 1 month till I started sweating (may not have been related since I still am) and must say, I sure hope sweats are caused by too much air in my wheelchair cushion because Prozac was amazing at only 10mg/day.

  3. Rodney McFarland, MD

    I have long been a bicycle commuter even with my busy practice, but when I have had a bad day or been too busy in the ER, I always feel better after riding my bicycle home. When I have to drive in bad weather, I don’t get the same reaction.
    I generally believe in “muscle powered sports” – cross country skiing, rowing shell, hiking; and I find these activities very therapeutic – in spite of my 72 years and psoriatic arthritis which limits me to a recumbent bicycle.

  4. Aleene

    Great Program!! I agree 100%. Twenty plus years on anti-depressants, I knew there had to be a better way – the side effects were sometimes worst than the illness. I agree this is a life-style base illness. I am so grateful for finding an eye-opening program that has given me my life back – very, very similiar to the Depression Cure.

  5. sss

    Depression should be considered a disease of modernity along the lines of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and the rest of the list your guest mentioned along with a number of other conditions left unmentioned. And what is the most remarkable departure from our past responsible for these conditions???
    The remarkably high levels of starch and sugars in the modern diet. This is the gist of Gary Taubes’s book “Good Calories, Bad Calories” in which is found a fascinating chapter on “Diseases of Civilization.” It’s funny that your guest’s deep consideration of the question of what is so different about modern life failed to uncover this – or, at least, fails to acknowledge it. No need for more “research,” just read Taubes’s book. And stop eating starch and sugar(s). Doing so ensures a diet high in fat and adequate if not optimal in protein. (Indeed the brain is chiefly fat and contains large amounts of cholesterol too. And the body doesn’t “build” its structures with protein alone while “burning” fat and carbohydrate, it builds with the fats consumed too.)

  6. Dorothy

    Our family has had depression running through it for many generations. My great grandfather spent his life in an asylum in the bad old days when they just locked people away for life. My brother and daughter committed suicide, and I have spent most of my life battling episodes of depression, some suicidal. A blood / DNA study done by an Iowa university showed a lot of shared gene markers between my sister, my mother, and myself; we’re now keeping a close eye on my sister’s little boy too.
    If just exercise could keep it away, I wish the baling hay and cleaning stalls and farming had helped more; but there’s obviously a good deal more to it. Omega-3 imbalance is an interesting thing to check out, but how do you get enough Omega 3 without getting Omega 6’s with it? I look forward to reading your book!

  7. Anonymous

    I heard nothing about the value of psychotherapy on today’s show, yet most of the suggestions are exactly in line with how a competent and compassionate therapist would work with a client battling depression. Goals such as seeking social interaction, increasing physical activity, and managing symptoms can be addressed in an individualized context.
    –It’s unfortunate that too often physicians perceive psychotherapy to be at odds with medical treatment, yet both disciplines have much healing to offer when they collaborate.

  8. Charles P.

    Thank you for this program.
    From my unreasonable forced experience on the inside of 3 separate mental health treatment centers following the hypersensitive atmosphere in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech Tragedy, I concur that anti-psychotic drugs are often not necessary or even the best treatment for those struggling mentally or otherwise.
    I would add a 7th step, ;-) and would like to discuss this with Dr. Ilardi as well.
    Charles P.

  9. PFM

    I clicked incorrectly, too. I MEANT five stars.

  10. ASH

    Like a previous “commenter”, I also did not realize that by clicking any star I was rating the show. Therefore, I gave it a 3 when I would have wanted to give it the maximum # of stars. Very helpful and informative presentation. Best was how measured the author was. He wasn’t out to make a sensational claim or expose in order to sell books. He was balanced and intelligent in his remarks. Bravo!

  11. NB

    Have been diagnosed with chronic (not episodic), clinical depression and have been taking anti-depressants for about 16 years. Despite various kinds of counseling, the anti-depressants are necessary for me to FUNCTION.
    THANKS for explanation about anti-depressants losing their effectiveness after long-term use. This has happened twice (each time after 7-8 years of using the same one.) I’m going to make a very concerted effort to do ALL SIX steps recommended to see if it will boost the waning effectiveness of current anti-depressant.
    Got Omega 3 / 6/ 9 at the health food store today, worked outside in the yard for a couple of hours with a friend, took the Omega 3/6/9, and suspect that getting a good night’s sleep will be pretty easy. That’s 6 out of 6 for today!

  12. Maria

    I have been listening to the People’s Pharmacy for a few years now and this show on depression with Dr. Stephen Ilardi has been by far the best and most helpful to me. I wish I had known these six steps 6 years ago before I lost my brother to suicide.
    We all, I think, know that things like exercise help alleviate depression, but I know even I believed it would only help a little. I don’t think that any more. I think these six steps could have really helped my brother overcome his depression. This information can’t help him anymore, but it can help me and anyone else I know dealing with depression.
    Thank you Dr. Ilardi for all your hard work.

  13. Marlene

    I have been taking an Prozac generic drug for years and this was a great awakening. I am 70 yrs old !!! You are right exercise works when I do it. So this was very helpful.. Thank you.
    Fibromyalgia has been also a complication.

  14. ESL

    Through your program years ago, I connected with a Reiki master in Jerusalem while I was there, and now again your program on depression today was important to us for family reasons. Thank you.
    I don’t believe though that I heard any suggestion that in our lives it’s not just a matter of depression or good mental health but the many gradations that many or most of us suffer from without thinking of it as depression itself.
    A word to the wise! Often we exhibit behaviors that are marginally hostile or anti-social that may be caused by the same issues discussed on your program today as possible species of depression itself and requiring the same remedies your guest reminded us of. Most of the issues discussed separately were not revelations, but combined had serious impact.
    Thanks again.

  15. DH

    I misunderstood and thought I had to click anywhere on the stars to open a window to vote on today’s radio share. But, instead, I learned that I had just inadvertently voted 2 or 3 stars. Want you to know my intention was to give the maximum star rating for a truly enlightening and extremely important show.
    I’m going to urge others to either listen to the show at your web site or buy the CD.

  16. R. M.

    It was so wonderful to hear the explanation of major depression on the program this morning. People never understand and think I merely have a bad attitude. I’ve dealt with depression and anxiety for many years and at different times in my life (I am 59). I’ve had very bad experiences with medications and have been benefitting from exercise, good nutrition, and good sleep routine. I am very isolated and had to retire on disability over a year ago because I could not function at my job. I have trouble thinking and talking with people. I don’t know what to do.

  17. e.c.

    It was great to hear this episode. I have been depressed for most of my life and the first time I experienced non-depression was when I first had an Rx for Celexa, but I couldn’t afford to continue taking it (when I turned about 32, I was still in grad school and taking care of a relative while working full time). I had had several attempts to suicide and it seemed that after that first free dose of Celexa the only thing to have broken the depressive cycle was living for 2 years in Mexico (as there was more than enough sunlight for me and I had great roommates). I cannot wait to get the mp3 of the programme.

  18. MG

    What a wonderful program! This book will be ordered today and a few of my friends might get a copy too. Thank you so much for the extremely helpful information.

  19. Brent B.

    Depression is largely the result of a combination of ingesting over-processed foods and a sedentary lifestyle. Once those factors are reversed, with prudent supplementation (especially Omega-3 oils) and exercise, the patient should show improvement. Today’s technology also tends to have a depressing effect — so put away those cell phones and laptops, and get outside for a while. The sunshine you get will also improve your vitamin D and melatonin levels — enabling you to get better sleep, and less depression!

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