Which Mental Health Treatment is the Best for Me?
You’re in pain. You come to realize that something needs to be done to improve your mental health. What do you do?
This is what I study. I do research on what helps or stops people from seeking help for mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression*.
Once a person realizes that they need to take action, the next step becomes figuring out where to get help. A glance at the Mental-Health-Matters.com menu at the top of this screen highlights the wide variety of treatments (e.g., talk therapy, medication, holistic treatments, self-help) that are available.
A quick skim of the articles on this website reveals a pattern: there are many different people with a wide variety of opinions about “what works” for treating mental health concerns. For example, the first article that I read said that talk therapy is a waste of time, while the second article said that talk therapy is one of the best treatments for mental health concerns. Who’s right? Whose “expert opinion” do we trust?
As a counseling psychologist, I certainly have my opinions about the effectiveness of each available treatment. These opinions are based on what scientific research studies published in legitimate peer-reviewed journals have found. However, it is always possible to critique the methods and results of research studies, and some people believe that research findings can only go so far in helping us figure out “the truth” about what treatments really are effective.
So, it seems like we are back where we started: each expert has an opinion about what does and does not work to address mental health concerns, and some assert that their form of treatment is better than the rest.
Personally, I think working with a talk therapist (who is properly licensed in their state and well-respected by former clients and fellow community providers) can be a great first step, but this is not going to be true for all people. Cultural and psychological factors such as community expectations and personal shame, as well as barriers such as lack of insurance and transportation, might make talk therapy a difficult option to pursue.
When thinking about a talk therapist, I encourage you to “interview” potential therapists and trust your gut when evaluating them. Many therapists offer a free phone consultation that will give you a chance to see if you might be a good “fit” for each other. Many therapists also have websites where they describe how they do their talk therapy. Therapy is a working relationship that requires teamwork; it works best when you can choose who to form that working relationship with.
In the end, it falls on you to research the various mental health treatment options and make a choice that feels right to you. This is a time-consuming and often annoying, but necessary, task. The fact is, some treatments work well for some, while other treatments work better for others. This is true of talk therapy, medication, holistic treatments, and self-help. So, you might start with one form of treatment, but then find that it is not producing the results that you expect, in which case it might be time to consider seeking an alternate form of treatment.
In my opinion, what is most important is that you make the choice to take healthy action, whatever that may look like. Life is precious, and struggling alone with an untreated mental health concern can threaten one’s opportunity to live a meaningful and productive life. You are worth fighting for.
© 2016 Joseph H. Hammer, PhD. All rights reserved. *Please visit DrJosephHammer.com to contribute to research by sharing your opinions about mental health treatment.