BLOGBreaking down the various types of mental health treatment: What is the right type of intervention for you and your family?

Challenges with mental health are common, and 1 out of 4 individuals will experience a mental health disorder at some point in their lifetime. Many of us are currently living with symptoms of a mental health condition that could be improved with professional intervention. Therapeutic intervention can assist people struggling with a variety of mental health concerns including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, and substance use challenges. Additionally, therapy can assist in treating relationship challenges, self-esteem, anger management, or managing daily stressors. Not all mental health challenges require professional intervention, however, there are a vast array of treatment options that are incredibly effective at addressing these types of mental health concerns and challenges. So, if you or a loved one is suffering emotionally, you don’t have to suffer alone. At the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, we want to help you connect with a clinician and treatment that is effective and right for you.

Making the decision to seek professional mental health treatment is a huge step toward prioritizing your mental health, finding your joy, and improving your overall health and well-being. If you are considering therapy for the first time, determining which type of treatment is best for you and your family can be overwhelming. There are many different types of mental health interventions, and some may be more aligned with your style and health goals than others. All therapies strive to provide a safe and non-judgmental environment where you can discuss symptoms, problems, or challenges, and work collaboratively with a clinician to develop mental health goals and strategies to achieve them. Depending on the approach, a therapist may utilize different methods to help patients develop healthy thinking and behavior patterns, enhance interpersonal relationships, and cope with difficult emotions and situations.

In the following paragraphs, we highlight some of the most common approaches to therapeutic intervention to help determine which approach feels right for you. We will focus on talk therapy, as this is the most common approach to addressing mental health concerns. “Talk therapy” or psychotherapy is a treatment that aims to help you identify and address challenging emotions, thoughts, and behaviors that may be interfering with your quality of life. This kind of approach is typically led by a licensed mental health professional (e.g., social worker, mental health counselor, psychologist, etc.,) and can be done in a variety of formats including: one-on-one, groups, couples, and families. These approaches can be effective both in person as well as virtually. There are different types of psychotherapy, and below we briefly discuss the most common approaches. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This is a treatment that combines cognitive therapy (changing how we think) and behavioral therapy (changing problematic behaviors) to form a more holistic approach to treatment. CBT helps clients learn to recognize and challenge unhelpful thoughts that influence emotions and behaviors, with an emphasis on understanding the connection between thoughts, emotions, and actions as well as coping skill development. This approach is very effective for treating a variety of concerns including anxiety, mood disorders, stress management, and interpersonal issues. 

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT): This is a treatment that uses similar approaches to CBT but also incorporates mindfulness (the ability to become aware and present) and meditation techniques. The goal of this therapy is to teach skills that can improve emotional regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, and distress tolerance. This approach emphasizes expanding the client’s coping skills to help them navigate their thoughts, emotions, and relationships. DBT is the standard treatment for individuals struggling with borderline personality disorder, but can also be very helpful for anxiety, mood disorders, anger management, and relationship challenges. 

Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT): In this approach to treatment, the therapist and client work together to examine mental health challenges and symptoms within the context of the client’s life and experiences to address patterns and trauma. Strengthening relationships, building support systems and emotional coping is key in this approach and can be very effective for mood disorders, like depression, and also for couples and family therapy. 

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): This approach helps people heal after exposure to a traumatic event and for individuals who may have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This approach is encouraged for individuals dealing with flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, or nightmares related to a traumatic event (or set of events).  The process of EMDR involves helping clients access stressful or difficult memories by pairing them with external stimuli (e.g., eye movements, left-right sound stimulation, etc.,)  to help the brain reduce the intensity of traumatic memories. 

Exposure Therapy: This treatment is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy and is most often used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and phobias (being so fearful of people, places or things that exposure to them produces an anxiety response). In exposure therapy, the trained clinician creates a safe and controlled environment so the client can be safely exposed to triggers. Repeated exposure to triggers helps to reduce fear, decrease avoidance, and reduce anxiety responses. 

Integrative or Holistic Therapy: This approach recognizes that therapeutic approaches may need to be tailored to the unique needs of a patient, and as such a therapist may introduce strategies and methods from two or more different therapeutic approaches. The concerns of the client are often viewed through a more holistic lens and interventions are uniquely selected to help an individual client achieve more positive and meaningful results. This kind of approach can be very effective for individuals managing anxiety, depression, trauma, and other kinds of stress. 

All of the approaches identified here are evidence-based, meaning there is substantial support for their effectiveness. If one of these strategies resonates with you, it is appropriate to talk to a potential therapist about their approach and identify which approach you think will work best for you. Therapy should be a collaboration, and you should have some involvement in determining your treatment. As well as being empowered to let your therapist know if something is not working for you. 

I hope this article has helped to expand your understanding of different approaches to therapy. I encourage you to reach out to me to discuss your questions, comments, or concerns If there are issues, questions you’d like answered, or topics you would like explored, please let me know. I sincerely look forward to hearing from you. 

Until next time, remember to choose joy over everything, and that your health is your most valuable asset. 

Kyaien Conner, PhD, LSW, MPH
Provider Training and Outreach Coordinator
Boris Lawrence. Henson Foundation

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