Mental health treatment may involve counseling, medication or a combination of the two. The specific type of mental health treatment program will vary based on the diagnosis and a person’s individual needs.
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Mental Health Treatment Options
Mental illness treatment can take place in a variety of settings and typically involves a team of professionals including psychologists, psychiatrists, nurses practitioners and more. Treatments settings and approaches vary depending on the type of mental health disorder a person has. However, mental health care almost always involves some form of psychiatric counseling. Medications may also be prescribed.
Several different types of mental health medications are available to treat symptoms associated with various mental health conditions. These can range from antidepressants to mood stabilizers.
Antidepressant medications are prescribed primarily to treat depression, but they can also treat insomnia, anxiety and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most commonly prescribed type of antidepressant medication, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
SSRI medications include fluoxetine, citalopram, sertraline and paroxetine. Some people may take other types of antidepressant medications, such as venlafaxine, duloxetine and bupropion. While these medications are commonly prescribed for depression, people with anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder or social anxiety disorder, may also benefit from taking an antidepressant.
The NIMH reports that a class of drugs called benzodiazepines are the most commonly used type of anxiety medication. Benzodiazepines such as clonazepam, alprazolam and lorazepam can reduce symptoms such as panic and worrying.
Lorazepam (brand name Ativan) is a fast-acting anxiety medication that can be used to treat the physiological symptoms of anxiety, such as sweaty palms and a racing heartbeat. Beta-blockers are another type of anti-anxiety medication that also address these physiological symptoms. Buspirone, on the other hand, is used to treat ongoing anxiety.
Antipsychotic medications are used to treat mental health conditions that are associated with losing touch with reality through hallucinations or delusions. People with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or severe depression may take antipsychotic medications to reduce symptoms of psychosis.
Antipsychotics can be divided into first-generation drugs, which are older, and newer second-generation drugs. Examples of first-generation drugs include:
Common second-generation drugs include:
Mood stabilizers typically treat symptoms of bipolar disorder. Lithium is a common mood stabilizing medication, and it is known to treat mania and reduce suicide risk. Anti-seizure medications, including valproic acid, can also be prescribed as mood stabilizers.
Other mood stabilizers include:
While some people may find that mental health medications alone treat their symptoms, others may see the most improvement with mental health therapy or with a combination of therapy and medication. During therapy, people work with a mental health clinician, either individually or in groups, to talk about thoughts, emotions and behaviors that upset them. The goal of therapy is to help people become aware of these upsetting thoughts and learn how to alter them.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. During cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a mental health professional helps a person recognize unhealthy thought patterns that result in upsetting behaviors and emotions. CBT helps replace these self-defeating thought patterns with ones that are more productive and rational.
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is typically used to treat people with a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder (BPD). The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that it was designed for use with people who have ongoing thoughts of suicide. While DBT is similar to CBT, it allows a person to accept uncomfortable feelings and then move toward positive changes with the help of the therapist. A critical component of DBT is learning and practicing coping skills.
- Family Therapy. In family therapy, the clinician considers behaviors within the family that may contribute to an individual’s mental health functioning. The goal is to examine and improve family relationships through a combination of individual and family sessions.
Some people may require treatment in mental health hospitals if their symptoms are severe and place them in danger. For example, a patient who is suicidal or experiencing extreme delusions may require hospitalization. During hospitalization, a person receives intensive services, such as monitoring, medications and stabilization.
- Inpatient Treatment. During inpatient treatment, a person stays overnight in a hospital or mental health treatment center. According to NAMI, a patient may be admitted voluntarily for inpatient treatment, or in cases when the person presents a danger to themselves or other people, involuntarily committed. For involuntary inpatient treatment to continue beyond three days, a judge must oversee a court hearing to determine if the treatment is necessary.
- Partial Hospitalization. Partial hospitalization is a treatment option for people who have serious mental health symptoms — like psychosis — but are not a danger to themselves or others. Some people may transition from inpatient programs to partial hospitalization programs. During partial hospitalization, a person receives intensive treatment during the day but is typically able to return home each night.
- Aftercare. Aftercare is an important part of transitioning from intensive mental health care. A case manager or social worker will create an aftercare plan that includes continued support and treatment after a person leaves the hospital or partial hospital setting. Aftercare plans may consist of medication management, counseling and case management services.
Mental Health Support Groups
Mental health support groups can be beneficial for some people recovering from a mental health issue. In support groups, there is an opportunity to discuss challenges with people facing similar struggles. Support groups can also provide social connections and help people to learn solutions and coping skills. Local NAMI agencies provide information about support groups for a variety of different mental health conditions.
Treating Mental Illness and Co-Occurring Substance Abuse
People experiencing mental illness and co-occurring substance abuse will require dual diagnosis treatment for both conditions. A comprehensive treatment plan includes services to address the mental health issue and the addiction and may involve individual and group counseling, medications, or a combination of the three.
If you or a loved one is living with a mental illness and co-occurring substance use disorder, The Recovery Village offers comprehensive treatment services to meet your needs. Contact an admissions representative today to learn about treatment options and begin the journey toward recovery.
National Institute of Mental Health. “Mental health medications.” October 2016. Accessed April 20, 2019.
National Institute of Mental Health. “Psychotherapies.” November 2016. Accessed April 23, 2019.
National Alliance on Mental Illness. “Psychotherapy.” 2019. Accessed April 23, 2019.
American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. “About marriage and family therapists.” 2002. Accessed April 24, 2019.
National Alliance on Mental Illness. “Getting treatment during a crisis.” 2019. Accessed April 24, 2019.
National Alliance on Mental Illness. “Find your local NAMI.” 2019. Accessed April 24, 2019.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.