Treatment for mental illness today continues to be a changing world. Services are increasingly offered online as well as in person. You can get an app on your iPhone that offers self-help support to patients working toward recovery for many mental health conditions. Some may have merit based on science, others may not. It is important to learn what you can about evidence-based practices, and to ask questions of those who form the team helping you or a loved one toward recovery.
Psychotherapy, also known as “talk therapy,” is when a person speaks with a trained therapist in a safe and confidential environment to explore and understand feelings and behaviors and gain coping skills.
During individual talk therapy sessions, conversation is often led by the therapist and can touch on topics such as past or current problems, experiences, thoughts, feelings or relationships experienced by the person while the therapist helps make connections and provide insight.
Studies have found individual psychotherapy to be effective at improving symptoms in a wide array of mental illnesses, making it both a popular and versatile treatment. It can also be used for families, couples or groups. Best practice for treating many mental health conditions includes a combination of medication and therapy.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Talking therapy that can help people manage problems by changing the way they perceive a situation. It is most commonly used to treat anxiety and depression, but can be useful for other mental and physical health problems, including bipolar disorder, eating disorders and schizophrenia.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): originally developed to treat chronically suicidal individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD). Over time, DBT has been adapted to treat people with multiple different mental illnesses, but most people who are treated with DBT have BPD as a primary diagnosis. DBT is a cognitive behavioral therapy for individuals to develop skills for mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness.
Group Therapy or Psychoeducation: Therapy in the presence of a group facilitator (therapist) in which several patients discuss and share their personal problems. Trained peer mental health counselors may also facilitate peer groups. Some groups are highly structured and follow an educational and skill-training agenda. Others are oriented toward telling one’s story and getting support and suggestions from people who have gone through similar situations.
Therapy types may be used for different diagnoses and include Family-Focused Therapy (Bipolar Disorder), Mentalization-Based Therapy (Borderline Personality Disorder), Psychodynamic Psychotherapy (depression, anxiety disorders, borderline personality disorder, and other mental illnesses
Other Treatment Approaches/Brain Stimulation Therapies
Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT): A medical treatment most commonly used in patients with severe major depression or bipolar disorder that has not responded to other treatments. ECT involves a brief electrical stimulation of the brain while the patient is under anesthesia.
Exposure Therapy: Exposure therapy is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy that is most frequently used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder and phobias. During treatment, a person works with a therapist to identify the triggers of their anxiety and learn techniques to avoid performing rituals or becoming anxious when they are exposed to them. The person then confronts whatever triggers them in a controlled environment where they can safely practice implementing these strategies.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR), shown in a number of studies to reduce emotional distress resulting from traumatic memories. It is often used to treat PTSD.
EMDR replaces negative emotional reactions to difficult memories with less-charged or positive reactions or beliefs. Performing a series of back and forth, repetitive eye movements for 20-30 seconds can help individuals change these emotional reactions.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)
TMS is a procedure that creates magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain to improve symptoms of depression. With TMS, a large electromagnetic coil is placed on a person’s forehead and short pulses are directed into an area of the brain believed to control moods.
Other Brain Stimulation Therapies
ECT and TMS are the most widely used brain stimulation therapies, but there are two other options available. However, they have not been widely studied and their effectiveness remains unclear.
Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS)
VNS uses a pulse generator, about the size of a stopwatch, placed in the upper left side of the chest to stimulate the vagus nerve, which carries messages to parts of the brain that control mood and sleep, with electrical impulses. VNS can be used to treat depression, as well as other medical conditions including epilepsy.
Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS)
Originally developed to reduce tremors from Parkinson’s disease, the FDA approved DBS for use in treating obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). DBS is currently being studied as treatment for Tourette’s syndrome and major depression. The use of DBS for mental health, however, is largely experimental and its safety and effectiveness are unknown.
For information on providers in the WNY area who may specialize in these areas, check our listings in this website under Treatment Resources or contact 211 WNY or by phone by dialing 211.