There is no one-size-fits-all plan to effectively treat mental illness. Each person’s situation is unique and should be addressed on an individual basis.
While distinct treatment plans will vary substantially, the approach to treating most forms of mental illness will include some combination of the following:
- Diagnosis: This is usually done through an intensive assessment of the person’s level of functioning over different domains. An official diagnosis can only be made by a mental health professional.
- Plan design: A treatment plan will be developed based on the diagnosis. This plan will serve as the blueprint for treatment, and it is likely to evolve over time.
- Medications: For some types of mental illness, medications may be the primary form of treatment. This is the case for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.For other forms of mental illness, medication may be an adjunctive form of treatment to psychotherapy. This is the case for anxiety disorders, substance use disorders, and eating disorders.
- Behavioral therapy: This includes various forms of therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy. The goal is to change behaviors as well as the thoughts behind them.
- Support: A solid support system is crucial to a successful recovery. This system can consist of family and close friends as well as peers in recovery.
- Additional services: Other interventions may address specific needs, such as job training, tutoring, parenting classes, and case management services.
- Ongoing care: Continued treatment and reassessment of functioning are necessary in order to modify treatment as appropriate. Some level of participation in treatment is always recommended. The intensity lessens over time and may eventually just involve therapy sessions every few weeks.
Because many different types of mental illness carry the potential for relapse, there is usually the need for long-term or lifelong intervention. People with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia will most likely need to be on medication over the course of their lifetime. In addition, ongoing therapy is generally recommended.
Those with dual diagnoses will need to be involved in long-term treatment for their substance use disorder. This includes a long-term aftercare program (continuing care) and sustained abstinence for at least five to seven years after they stop using their drug of choice. Very often, these individuals need a combination of medications and therapy or group participation for years.