There are a wide range of different therapies and interventions used by professionals in the treatment of mental health conditions. These therapies/interventions can be divided into two ‘categories’- psychological, and biological, with both taking place either, in an outpatient setting (e.g., weekly sessions with a therapist and involvement in support groups/a 12-step programme), or, in an inpatient/residential setting (e.g., in a hospital/psychiatric ward.) The exact setting whereby treatment will take place will differ on case-by-case basis, with it being dependent on the severity of one’s mental illness, and the intensity of the support/supervision they require…
In terms of what the treatment options actually are then, the first category, ‘psychological’, consists of talking therapies and ‘alternative’ therapies, with the former (talking therapies) consisting of things such as counselling, psychotherapy, and CBT, and the latter (‘alternative’ therapies) consisting of things such as ‘art therapy.’ Both talking therapies and alternative therapies aim to tackle the emotional side of mental ill health by, using CBT as an example, supporting people to develop skills which they can use to manage their negative thoughts and behavioural patterns. The difference between talking therapies and alternative therapies is, however, that whilst talking therapies are based on just that- talking- alternative therapies are less about verbally speaking and more about self-expression via creative mediums, whether that be via music, painting, dancing, drama, yoga, etc. The ‘non-clinical’ nature of alternative therapies such as this can help people to make greater sense of their condition, potentially making them feel more able to partake in talking therapy, too.
The second category of treatment, ‘biological’, consists of medication (the most common type of treatment for mental ill health), and ‘brain stimulation therapy’ (e.g., ECT, EMDR, etc), with this approach to treatment aiming to tackle the physiological side of the condition by easing the physical symptoms of it.
Like therapies, there are several types of medication that can be prescribed depending on the mental health condition that is being treated. The two most prescribed medications used to treat mental health conditions are, however, anti-depressants, and anti-psychotics.
Anti-depressants are mostly used to treat Depression, although they can also be used to treat other mental health conditions, such as anxiety, OCD, and eating disorders.
Most often going by the names of ‘Sertraline’ and ‘Fluoxetine’, anti-depressants work by correcting certain imbalanced chemicals in the brain (noradrenaline and serotonin), that are responsible for the regulation of our mood. This is achieved by blocking the absorption of serotonin so that the brain is better able to send and receive messages, something which consequently results in better, and ‘more stable’ moods being experienced by those with Depression. This, the experience of better, more stable moods, is the therapeutic effect of taking the medication. In contrast, there are also some less desirable effects of taking the medication, as is evident in the listed side effects of anti-depressants (e.g., hypoglycaemia, low sodium, nausea, constipation, diarrhoea, insomnia, headaches, weight loss, dizziness, anxiety and agitation, etc.)
Anti-psychotics, on the other hand, are primarily used to treat psychosis, although, like anti-depressants, they have also been proven effective at treating other mental health conditions too, such as bipolar, schizophrenia, and severe depression and anxiety. Also, like anti-depressants, anti-psychotics are used to correct imbalances in the brain, not by blocking the absorption of serotonin, however (as is the case with anti-depressants), but by blocking the absorption of dopamine. Why does blocking dopamine decrease symptoms of psychosis? Because many psychotic experiences are caused by one’s brain creating too much dopamine, so therefore blocking it helps to reduce such experiences (e.g., hallucinations and delusional thoughts), both in their regularity and intensity. The reduction in psychotic experiences and therefore the easing of symptoms is therefore the therapeutic effect of the medication. The side effects, however, include things such as: restlessness, uncontrollable movements of the facial muscles, sedation, weight gain, diabetes, constipation, dry mouth, and blurred vision (to name just a few.)
Aside from anti-depressants and anti-psychotics, the two most commonly prescribed medication for the treatment of mental ill health, other types of medication prescribed for mental health conditions, albeit less commonly prescribed, include sleeping pills and tranquilisers (for the treatment of severe anxiety and mental ill health related sleep problems), and mood stabilisers (for the treatment of bipolar disorder and, sometimes, severe depression.)
With benefits and drawbacks to both psychological treatment (talking therapies and alternative therapies), and biological treatment (prescribed medication and brain stimulation therapy), most people have a combination of the two, with this seeing them partaking in talking therapy and taking medication alongside it. This helps them to tackle all sides of their mental health condition, by ensuring that psychologically they are taking steps to get better (by talking to a professional about their feelings), and biologically they are also taking steps to get better (by taking tablets to balance out their brain chemicals, for example.)