Navigating the mental health system can be quite difficult. But once you have your loved one there, what happens?
For severe and persistent mental illness, the best practice is to use traditional psychotherapy or “talk therapy” with medication. If the brain is not functioning correctly, all the therapy in the world can do little good. So stabilizing the brain is the first priority.
What types of medication are used?
- Antipsychotics reduce or eliminate delusions and hallucinations by impacting the brain chemical dopamine.
- Antidepressants improve depression by impacting the brain chemicals associated with emotion: serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine.
- Antianxiety medication reduces the emotional and physical symptoms of anxiety. This includes meds like Xanax and beta-blockers.
- Mood stabilizers are medicines that treat and prevent mania and depression. They are most commonly used for bipolar disorder. Examples include carbamazepine (Tegretol), divalproex sodium (Depakote), lamotrigine (Lamictal) and lithium.
What types of treatment are used?
Once the medications are working, doctors and social workers have a variety of options for psychotherapy. In each case, the person works with a therapist in a safe, confidential environment to understand their feelings and behavior, while learning new ways to cope. These types of treatment may include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is based on the relationship between thoughts, emotions and behaviors. The therapist works to uncover unhealthy patterns of thought that cause self-destructive behavior and beliefs. Once those patterns are identified, the patient can identify them and learn to find more constructive ways of thinking and responding. Used for depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, eating disorders and schizophrenia.
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) combines CBT with teaching skills in mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation and distress tolerance. It emphasizes validation, or accepting uncomfortable thoughts, feelings and behaviors. The therapist helps the person find a balance between accepting themselves and changing by learning new skills and coping methods. Originally developed for people with borderline personality disorder, it is now used for other illnesses as well.
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy has the patient focusing on two things at once: emotionally disturbing thoughts and an external stimulation, like eye movements. For PTSD.
- Exposure Therapy involves gradually exposing the patients to their phobia or the cause of their anxiety without causing them any danger. For obsessive-compulsive disorder, PTSD and phobias.
- Interpersonal Therapy focuses on relationships by improving the patient’s interpersonal functioning. For depression.
- Psychodynamic Therapy includes free association and open-ended questions. For depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder and other illness.
- Mentalization-Based Therapy combines psychodynamic, CBT, systemic and ecological therapies. It’s used for borderline personality disorder because the illness often causes feelings of emptiness or unstable self-image. Mentalizing allows the patient to consciously perceive and understand their own feelings and thoughts. It also allows them to understand more about the feelings and thoughts of others.
- Therapy Pets help reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, fatigue and pain.
Next time we’ll cover the best ways to work with mental health professionals and how to keep a treatment record.