Types of Treatment

There are many ways to treat mental illnesses.  Choosing the right treatment is based on many factors, such as the illness, severity of symptoms, co-occuring issues, treatments attempted in the past, and the consumers input. 

Medications are often used to treat the symptoms of mental disorders such as schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder (sometimes called manic-depressive illness), anxiety disorders, and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Sometimes medications are used with other treatments such as psychotherapy. Choosing the right medication, medication dose, and treatment plan should be based on a person's individual needs and medical situation, and under a doctor's care.

Mental Health Medications - A guide from the National Institute of Mental Health describing: 

  • Types of medications used to treat mental disorders
  • Side effects of medications
  • Directions for taking medications
  • Warnings about medications from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Choosing the Right Treatment: What Families Need to Know about Evidence-Based Treatment (for Children)  [NAMI]

Psychotherapy, or "talk therapy", is a way to treat people with a mental disorder by helping them understand their illness. It teaches people strategies and gives them tools to deal with stress and unhealthy thoughts and behaviors. Psychotherapy helps patients manage their symptoms better and function at their best in everyday life.

Sometimes psychotherapy alone may be the best treatment for a person, depending on the illness and its severity. Other times, psychotherapy is combined with medications. Many kinds of psychotherapy exist. There is no "one-size-fits-all" approach. In addition, some therapies have been scientifically tested more than others. The most common forms are:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapty (CBT)
    • CBT helps a person focus on his or her current problems and how to solve them. The therapist helps the patient learn how to identify distorted or unhelpful thinking patterns, recognize and change inaccurate beliefs, relate to others in more positive ways, and change behaviors accordingly.
    • Many studies have shown that CBT is a particularly effective treatment for depression, especially minor or moderate depression.
  • Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)
    • Used most often with people dealing with depression or dysthymia (a less severe, but more persistent depression)
    • IPT helps identify how a person interacts with other people.
  • Dialetical Behavioral Therapy (used for Borderline Personality Disorder)
  • Family-Focused Therapy (used mostly for Bipolar Disorder)

Psychotherapies - a guide from the National Institute of Mental Health, which describes the types of psychotherapy in more detail

Types of Mental Health Professionals (MHA Wisconsin)

In addition to treatment, participation in a support group can also be very helpful during the recovery process.  Support group members share their experiences with the problem, learn coping skills and exchange information on treatment experiences.  Many people also find strength and support through their religious and spiritual affiliations.

Search for a support group in Southeastern Wisconsin (MHA of Wisconsin)

How Do I Find a local Support Group? (MHA; list of directories and web sites with links to support groups and organizations across the country and online) 

Complementary & Alternative Medicine for Mental Health Conditions  Link to an introduction of the 263 page document Mental Health America compiled, which summarizes research on non-medical treatment and prevention topics "from yoga to SAM-e to fish oil."

The Exercise Effect - discusses research (American Psychological Association)

Mental Illness in the Family: Part III Considering Hospital Care(MHA Wisconsin)

Brain stimulation therapies (NIMH Fact Sheet)

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