The two most common treatments for mental health problems are

  1. Psychotherapy (such as counselling, psychological interventions) and
  2. Medication.

The most appropriate treatment for anyone with a disorder, will depend upon the person and the disorder in question.
Anyone involved in helping someone with a disorder; from a carer to a therapist; will be more likely to be successful, if they better understand the disorder, the individual, and the circumstances in question.


Medication is prescribed for mental health conditions by doctors and psychiatrists. It will depend on the severity of the condition as to who prescribes it e.g. a GP may prescribe antidepressants but is less likely to prescribe antipsychotics.  Drugs do not “cure” mental health problems, but they do help to ease some of the most distressing symptoms. For example:

  • Mood stabilisers can help control the extremes of moods
  • Antidepressants can help to lift depression
  • Antipsychotics can help to control disturbing thoughts
  • Minor tranquilisers can help a person to sleep and calm down

Drugs can be useful as they lessen the symptoms and allow the person to function and work.  However, drugs can have side-effects, and they can make some people's symptoms worse.    Also, some drugs can be addictive. Long-term use of drugs can cause other symptoms e.g. renal damage, movement disorders. As we go through the course, we may consider medications for specific conditions, but bear in mind, medications change as new treatments are developed and existing treatments are found to not work so well.


Psychotherapy in its loosest form refers to any type of therapy that is used to control or remove symptoms of a mental, behavioural or emotional disorder. It is often abbreviated to therapy and a modifier is used to distinguish a particular type e.g. art therapy. Psychotherapy also signifies a specific form of therapy, usually psychoanalysis or psychodynamic psychotherapy, but throughout the following lessons we use the term to refer to therapy more generally.  Various types of therapy can help a person to overcome their difficulties. Some of these treatments involve talking therapies alone, but many approaches include other interventions such as behavioural strategies.  Common therapeutic approaches include:

  • Counselling
  • Psychotherapy (psychoanalysis, psychodynamic psychotherapy)
  • Cognitive Behaviour Therapy
  • Relationship Counselling
  • Group Therapy
  • Family Systems Therapy
  • Person-Centred Therapy
  • Gestalt Therapy

Individuals who practice various forms of psychotherapy are usually psychologists, counsellors, psychotherapists and some psychiatrists.