For decades, conversations about mental health were deemed taboo. Depression and bipolar disorder, for example, were perceived as untreatable not to mention socially unacceptable. People suffering from mental maladies were too often cast aside and forced to battle their demons alone. Finally, society has recognized the value in addressing mental health—conversations around it, therapies for improving it and the creation of spaces in which people can lean on one another for support and encouragement without stigmatization.
Mental health looks different for everyone, however. Treatments vary from person to person and more often than not, patients must experiment with a number of treatments before discovering the therapy or medication that best suits their needs. It’s important to remember, too, that treatment isn’t linear. Like life, there will be triumphs, losses, obstacles and everything in between, but seeking support is the first and most crucial step to healing. Consult with your mental health professional for the treatments best suited to you.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
What It Treats: Anxiety, Depression, Drug/Alcohol Abuse, Eating Disorders
How It Works: The goal of this approach is to change thinking patterns. The faulty logic and learned behaviors that exacerbate feelings of anxiety, depression and the like can be properly identified and reconstructed through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT involves sessions with a therapist as well as individual work at home. Patients undergoing this treatment learn to face their fears, recognize irrational patterns in thinking or behavior and equip themselves with self-help and problem-solving skills.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy
What It Treats: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
How It Works: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) is known as dual stimulation. Patients perform repetitive back and forth eye movements for roughly 30 seconds while simultaneously calling to the surface memories of a traumatic event. The goal of EMDR is to help individuals access unresolved, traumatic memories and replace the negative reactions or beliefs about those memories with more positive responses.
What It Treats: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Phobias
How It Works: A spin-off of CBT, exposure therapy encourages patients to confront their triggers, in a controlled environment, so they can learn how to best control their fears and anxieties when faced with these stress-inducing factors in the real world. A therapist may choose to expose the patient’s fears or obsessions in one of two ways—by desensitization, which over time slowly increases a patient’s exposure to stimulus, or by flooding, which presents all or a large amount of stimulus at once.
What It Treats: Social-Emotional Growth
How It Works: Most children are fortunate in that the weight of the world has yet to distort their way of thinking; a reality that exacerbates feelings of anxiety, depression and fear in adults. This is not to say that children are immune to stressors though. Changes in family dynamics, attending a new school or struggling to connect with their peers are just a few examples of the emotional hurdles children must overcome. Play therapy is a fun, age-appropriate solution to preventing and resolving children’s psychosocial difficulties, as well as helping them achieve optimal growth and development.
Perhaps the most critical tool play therapy provides for therapists and their patients is common ground. Children lack the language skills of adults, so through play, children share non-verbal clues about their inner thoughts which in turn allow psychologists and psychiatrists to gain insight into their patients’ problems. Children’s imaginations are without boundaries too, so traumas and emotions are more naturally expressed through pretend scenarios than through conversation. Once these triggers are identified, licensed professionals use their therapeutic powers to facilitate the healing process.
Sources: American Psychological Association; National Alliance on Mental Illness; Association for Play Therapy