National Mental Health Information Center
Article location: http://www.mentalhealth.org/publications/allpubs/ken98-0053/default.asp
Why are traditional therapies used to treat mental illnesses?
What are some of the different kinds of traditional
Couples Counseling and Family Therapy;
Where can I get more information about treatments?
Why are traditional therapies used to treat mental
Mental health professionals use a variety of approaches to
give people tools to deal with ingrained, troublesome patterns of behavior and
to help them manage symptoms of mental illness. The best therapists will work
with you to design a treatment plan that will be most effective for you. This
sometimes involves a single method, or it may involve elements of several
different methods, often referred to as an "eclectic approach" to therapy.
As the name implies, this approach focuses on behavior-changing unwanted
behaviors through rewards, reinforcements, and desensitization.
Desensitization, or Exposure Therapy, is a process of confronting something
that arouses anxiety, discomfort, or fear and overcoming the unwanted
responses. Behavioral therapy often involves the cooperation of others,
especially family and close friends, to reinforce a desired behavior.
Medication alone, or in combination with psychotherapy, has proven to be an
effective treatment for a number of emotional, behavioral, and mental
disorders. The kind of medication a psychiatrist prescribes varies with the
disorder and the individual being treated.
This method aims to identify and correct distorted thinking patterns that can
lead to feelings and behaviors that may be troublesome, self-defeating, or
even self-destructive. The goal is to replace such thinking with a more
balanced view that, in turn, leads to more fulfilling and productive behavior.
A combination of cognitive and behavioral therapies, this approach helps
people change negative thought patterns, beliefs, and behaviors so they can
manage symptoms and enjoy more productive, less stressful lives.
Couples Counseling and Family Therapy:
These two similar approaches to therapy involve discussions and
problem-solving sessions facilitated by a therapist-sometimes with the couple
or entire family group, sometimes with individuals. Such therapy can help
couples and family members improve their understanding of, and the way they
respond to, one another. This type of therapy can resolve patterns of behavior
that might lead to more severe mental illness. Family therapy can help educate
the individuals about the nature of mental disorders and teach them skills to
cope better with the effects of having a family member with a mental
illness-such as how to deal with feelings of anger or guilt.
Also known as ECT, this highly controversial technique uses low voltage
electrical stimulation of the brain to treat some forms of major depression,
acute mania, and some forms of schizophrenia. This potentially life-saving
technique is considered only when other therapies have failed, when a person
is seriously medically ill and/or unable to take medication, or when a person
is very likely to commit suicide. Substantial improvements in the equipment,
dosing guidelines, and anesthesia have significantly reduced the possibility
of side effects.
This form of therapy involves groups of usually 4 to 12 people who have
similar problems and who meet regularly with a therapist. The therapist uses
the emotional interactions of the group's members to help them get relief from
distress and possibly modify their behavior.
Through one-on-one conversations, this approach focuses on the patient's
current life and relationships within the family, social, and work
environments. The goal is to identify and resolve problems with insight, as
well as build on strengths.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that appears related
to fluctuations in the exposure to natural light. It usually strikes during
autumn and often continues through the winter when natural light is reduced.
Researchers have found that people who have SAD can be helped with the
symptoms of their illness if they spend blocks of time bathed in light from a
special full-spectrum light source, called a "light box."
Geared toward young children, this technique uses a variety of activities-such
as painting, puppets, and dioramas-to establish communication with the
therapist and resolve problems. Play allows the child to express emotions and
problems that would be too difficult to discuss with another person.
This approach focuses on past conflicts as the underpinnings to current
emotional and behavioral problems. In this long-term and intensive therapy, an
individual meets with a psychoanalyst three to five times a week, using "free
association" to explore unconscious motivations and earlier, unproductive
patterns of resolving issues.
Based on the principles of psychoanalysis, this therapy is less intense, tends
to occur once or twice a week, and spans a shorter time. It is based on the
premise that human behavior is determined by one's past experiences, genetic
factors, and current situation. This approach recognizes the significant
influence that emotions and unconscious motivation can have on human behavior.
For more information:
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
3615 Wisconsin Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20016-3007
American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy
112 S. Alfred Street
Alexandria, VA 22314-3061
American Psychiatric Association
1000 Wilson Blvd., Suite 1825
Arlington, VA 22209-3901
Toll Free: 888-357-6850
American Psychological Association
750 First Street NE
Washington, DC 20002-4242
National Association of Social Workers
750 First Street NE, Suite 700
Washington, DC 20002-4241
Telephone: 800-638-8799 or 202-408-8600
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com>
Note: These are suggested resources. It is not meant to
be a complete list.
Please note that this online publication has been
abridged from the printed version.