Treatment depends on the type of mental health condition, its severity, and what works best for you. Below, we will review two common forms of treatment: psychotherapy and medication.
Psychotherapy is defined as treatment for mental health problems by talking with a mental health professional (i.e. psychiatrist, psychologist, psychotherapist). In Quebec, psychotherapy is defined by law as: "A psychological treatment for a mental disorder, behavioural disturbance or other problem resulting in psychological suffering or distress, and has as its purpose to foster significant changes in the client's cognitive, emotional or behavioural functioning, interpersonal relations, personality or health."
During psychotherapy, you learn about your condition, moods, feelings, thoughts, and behaviours. In addition, you learn about not only ways to respond to and manage challenging situations but also coping strategies. Four main approaches to psychotherapy exist, including cognitive-behavioural, existential-humanist, psychodynamic-analytical, and systemic-interactional. To learn about the different orientations of psychotherapy, please read more here.
WHY IT'S DONE
Psychotherapy can help treat most mental health problems. However, not everyone who benefits from psychotherapy is diagnosed with a mental illness. A person experiencing life stressors such as major life changes, interpersonal conflicts, difficulty sleeping, physical illness, among others, can benefit from psychotherapy. Psychotherapy may explore painful feelings. This experience may feel emotionally uncomfortable at times but the trained mental health professional you are working with will match the type and intensity of psychotherapy that fits best with your needs. Coping strategies learned during psychotherapy can also help you manage these difficult thoughts and feelings.
WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT
Psychotherapy may not cure your mental health condition or remove the difficult situation, but it can empower you to find healthy coping skills that can help you in your journey of recovery.
The following steps are ways you can try to get the most out of your psychotherapy:
Find a therapist with whom you feel comfortable
Having a good fit between you and your psychotherapist is important. If you don't feel comfortable with your current psychotherapist, try to find another one with whom you feel more at ease.
Approach psychotherapy as a partnership
By being an active participant in psychotherapy, you and your psychotherapist together can make decisions about your treatment and how best to address major issues, set goals, and measure progress over time.
Be honest and open
Willingness to not only share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences but also recognize new insights can help contribute to the success of psychotherapy. If there are certain issues that you may be reluctant to share, let your psychotherapist know about how you feel.
Stick to your treatment plan
If you feel down or unmotivated, skipping psychotherapy sessions may seem tempting. However, this may disrupt your progress. Try to attend all sessions.
Don't expect instant results
It can be common to feel worse during the start of psychotherapy as you work through past or current painful or emotional challenges. Know that you may need a few sessions before improvements can be seen.
Do your homework in between sessions
If your psychotherapist asks you to keep a journal of your thoughts, stick to it. Homework can help you practice what you've learned in your psychotherapy sessions to your daily life.
If psychotherapy is not helping, talk to your psychotherapist
If you don't see any benefits from psychotherapy after a few sessions, talk to your psychotherapist directly about this. Together, you can decide what changes or approach might be more effective.
Psychotherapy can be as effective as medications. However, depending on the specific situation, psychotherapy in combination with medications can more effectively ease the symptoms of mental health challenges.
Psychiatric medications do not cure mental illness but can help to improve symptoms. When combined with other treatments, such as psychotherapy, psychiatric medications can help contribute to more effective results.
Commonly prescribed psychiatric medication includes:
- Antidepressant medications
- Anti-anxiety medications
- Mood-stabilizing medications
- Antipsychotic medications
To learn more about these types of medications, visit here.
The best medication for you depends on your situation and how your body responds to the medication. Determining what medication is best for you should be done in consultation with your family doctor or psychiatrist.
Mayo Clinic. (2013). Psychotherapy. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/psychotherapy/basics/definition/prc-20013335
Mayo Clinic. (2013). Treatment and drugs. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mental-illness/basics/treatment/con-20033813
Ordre des Psychologies du Québec. (2015). Definition of psychotherapy. Retrieved from http://www.ordrepsy.qc.ca/en/public/la-psychotherapie/definition-of-psychotherapy.sn
Ordre des Psychologies du Québec. (2015). Theoretical approaches. Retrieved from http://www.ordrepsy.qc.ca/en/public/la-psychotherapie/theoretical-approaches.sn