“Calm mind brings inner strength and self-confidence, so that’s very important for good health.” This popular quote of the 14th Dalai Lama, Lhamo Thondup, was first spoken decades ago, but its truth is timeless. Although a powerful tool, the mind can also be a very delicate thing, susceptible to illness like any other part of the body. In fact, mental illness affects approximately 43.8 million adults in the U.S. every year.

January is designated as Mental Wellness Month, and although many people are familiar with some of the different types of mental illness, they may not know as much about how they’re treated. Just as with any other illness, there are a variety of methods. The National Alliance on Mental Illness defines mental illness as a condition that affects a person’s thinking, feelings or mood. For some people, it’s depression or bipolar disorder. For others, it’s anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Schizophrenia, personality disorder, and impulse control disorder are other forms of mental illness. All of these conditions may interfere with a person’s ability to function and relate to others. In some cases, they can also be associated with substance abuse and addiction.

Therapy is a popular treatment modality for mental illness, as it can help people cope with their symptoms and change any restrictive, hazardous behaviors. The type, length of sessions, and number of sessions aren’t the same for everyone, and they ultimately depend on the illness and person being treated. Three or four sessions in a few weeks may be all that’s needed to see improvement for certain individuals, while others may require more sessions over a longer period. When it comes to therapy for mental illness, there is no “one size fits all” method, and there are many types of therapy — several of which are offered at The Recovery Village — including:

Psychotherapy

Also known as “talk therapy,” psychotherapy is one of the most common forms of treatment for mental illness. This evidence-based method involves meetings between a client and therapist, or other licensed mental health care professional, on a regular basis. The goal of each meeting is to improve well-being by addressing problematic thoughts, emotions, compulsions and behaviors while learning effective coping strategies. Clients also establish safety planning to prevent future negative thoughts or behaviors, receive supportive counseling, and learn relaxation techniques.

Psychotherapy can be used to treat long-term stress, depression, PTSD and other disorders, but there are hundreds of forms used for other purposes as well. The therapist is typically the person who determines which modality or modalities are best for each client. The forms most often used to treat mental illness are:

  • Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT): CBT involves participating in various structured talk sessions with a therapist, either with one client at a time or several clients at a time. The goal of these sessions is to eliminate negative thinking and behaviors while finding new, healthy ways to view and respond to life challenges. It’s commonly used to treat depression, bipolar disorders, anxiety and PTSD, among other conditions.
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): Often used to help people with personality and mood disorders, DBT helps individuals increase their ability to regulate thoughts and emotions. Therapists help clients identify triggers that lead to negative thoughts and behaviors (suicidal thoughts, self-harm, etc.), and help them find healthy, effective coping mechanisms.
  • Group (Interpersonal) Therapy: Just as the name implies, group therapy involves more than just the therapist and client. It can consist of one or more therapists treating a group of clients simultaneously in the same room, or multiple therapists treating one client. CBT is an example of a form of therapy that can be provided in an individual or group setting. Therapists often opt for this form of therapy over individual therapy for clients who need help improving their interpersonal relationships.
  • Family or Couples Therapy: Another form of group therapy, this technique involves the client’s partner or family. Family members and significant others often play a vital role in helping their loved ones to process their mental illness and find ways to manage it.

Expressive Therapy

This method of therapy uses creative, artistic expression as a means of treatment for mental illness, including art, music, writing and drama therapy. Whether you enjoy writing, painting, drawing, playing an instrument, acting or any other form of expressive art, this form of therapy can be beneficial for the treatment of mental illness.

According to Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) Douglas Mitchell, “expressive arts therapy bridges the gap between the conscious and unconscious mind.” It has the potential to “bring light to areas of therapy that are blocked, inhibited, and stuck …” Expressive therapy essentially helps individuals of all ages express themselves in ways that speaking cannot, or it can open the door for verbal communication.

Drug Therapy

In some cases, medications can be used alone or in conjunction with other forms of therapy. Just as with psychotherapy, there are many types of psychiatric drug therapy options for addressing mental illness. These include anti-anxiety drugs and antidepressants as well as antipsychotic and mood-stabilizing drugs. These drugs are intended to alter the brain, often by increasing serotonin (chemical produced by nerve cells that impacts emotions and motor skills) levels. Although drug therapy is an evidence-based treatment modality for mental illness, it comes with some risks, including drug abuse. This is why it’s important to take such medications only as they’re prescribed.

If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health disorder and substance use disorder, hope is on the horizon. The Recovery Village offers various treatment programs for these conditions, and have led hundreds down the road to recovery. Call today to speak with an intake coordinator to learn more, and be one step closer to a healthier mind and body.

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Understanding the Methods Used to Treat Mental Illnesses
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