Mental health treatment

Mental health treatment

The treatment of mental illness will vary from condition to condition and the individual patient requirements.  It is very important to see your GP if you think that you may be suffering from a mental health disorder.  If it is considered necessary, your doctor may start treatment, or refer you to a specialist who has specific knowledge of your particular condition.

Your doctor or specialist will offer you the best course of treatment for your particular mental health disorder. The most important thing before starting treatment is getting a diagnosis. If you already have a diagnosis, we have more information on treatments available for particular mental health disorders, please see the individual categories from the menu above.

Many people try and self diagnose, and while information is very useful to a patient, it is very important to get a professional diagnosis before starting treatment, especially any medication.

The types of mental health treatment that are most commonly used are talking therapies and/or medication.

Talking therapies

There are different approaches used by counsellors which will depend on your condition and your individual needs and preferences.  Different counsellors are trained in different techniques but many can offer you several different types of counselling.  There are distinct counselling techniques, below we look at four of them but there is a more indepth article you may find useful: Talking therapy.

Talking therapies you may be offered include:

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)
  • Psychodynamic Therapy
  • Holistic approach

Cognitive behavioural therapy uses a techniques which aim to solve problems that concern dysfunctional emotions, behaviours and cognitions.  It centres on ‘now’ and what can be done to make a difference to your life today.  CBT was originally developed through the combination of behaviour therapy and cognitive therapy.  It is the preferred type of therapy of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) when used to treat conditions which include post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorders, eating disorders and clinical depression.

Dialectical behavioural therapy was developed by Marsha M Linehan to treat people with borderline personality disorder (BPD).    DBT uses a combination of standard CBT for the treatment of dysfunctional emotions and reality-testing with concepts of distress tolerance, acceptance and mindful awareness.  Recently DBT has also been found to be effective for the treatment of survivors of sexual abuse and for chemical dependency.

Psychodynamic counselling is centred on the theory that human behaviour is motivated by underlying, unconscious emotions.  It looks at how a person’s past may be influencing their behaviour now.  By exploring your past you may find beliefs that are preventing you from achieving satisfaction now.

Holistic approach to counselling will involve a combination of counselling and alternative treatment such as acupuncture or meditation.  Your counsellor will discuss your personal condition and offer treatments that will suit your personal needs.  It may be that you would feel happy to explore your spiritual needs and an holistic counsellor should be able to facilitate this.

If you would like to see a counsellor and your doctor or specialist has not referred you to one, it is always possible to access one privately.  You will easily find a list of counsellors both online and in the telephone directory - see our counselling directory.  Always remember that different counsellors have different specialist areas, so check to see if they have experience in the area that you need.  Paying for private counselling can make it out of reach for those on a low income but some counsellors offer concessions in these circumstances.


As with physical illness, each are different, as are the experiences of the individual. Not all mental health conditions will require medication, some such as postnatal depression may require a short-term course, while schizophrenia or bipolar disorder may mean a much more long-term medication plan. Again, this is why it is so important to seek individualised care.

If you have had a diagnosis for your mental health condition and it is necessary to prescribe a course of medication this will be done by your GP or mental health specialist - a psychiatrist is a medically trained doctor of psychology who can prescribe medication.  You should be consulted about their choice of medication and any side-effects should be pointed out to you.  Starting on any new medication can cause patients to feel apprehensive and it is your right to discuss any fears that you may have with your doctor or specialist.

Sometimes medication may not be effective for a particular individual and it may be necessary to try another until you find the one which suits you. 

Some people feel as though they are weak if they resort to medication to treat a mental health disorder and yet, if we stop and think about it, it is no more a weakness than to take antibiotics for an infection.  Anyone suffering from a mental health disorder had not more part to play in contracting it than someone with a physical health disorder. If you are at all concerned please do speak to your GP or call SANELine on 0845 767 8000.

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