Psychiatric treatment uses many different types of therapies to find the ideal method of treatment for each individual patient. Forms of treatment include prescription medications, several different types of individual talk therapy, group therapy, and — in extreme cases — hospitalization in a psychiatric facility. Many patients require a combination of several different types of therapy to help them overcome their condition.
Early psychiatric treatment consisted mainly of sending mentally ill patients to asylums, where they are kept separate from the general population, but not really treated for their conditions. Some of the asylums employed barbaric methods of treatment, including cutting out sections of the patient’s brains or electrocuting them with shock therapy. Today, lobotomies are rarely used for mental conditions, and electroshock therapy is more controlled and precise to decrease the risks to the patient.
During the early 19th century, psychiatrists such as Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung started to popularize psychiatric treatment that involved talking to the patient at length and trying to get to the source of the condition. Much of the methods these psychiatrists employed are still used today, although they have evolved over time to incorporate new research about the mind. Cognitive therapy, which helps patients change their way of thinking about a specific situation, is one of the most common types of talk therapy. Freud’s method of psychoanalysis, which looks to the patient’s childhood to find the cause behind certain disorders, is also still widely used.
While one-on-one therapy is among the most popular methods of psychiatric treatment, group therapy is also beneficial to many types of patients. The overall goal of group therapy is to both allow patients to learn from others coping with similar conditions, and assure patients that they are not alone. Group therapy can also be useful and helping patients transition from a solitary existence to living and working with others.
Prescription medications are typically used in conjunction with other types of psychiatric treatment. Types of medications include antidepressants, antipsychotics, and anti-anxiety drugs. The medications act on different chemicals in the brain, which may help alleviate the symptoms of psychiatric disorders. Medication alone, however, is rarely as beneficial as medication combined with talk therapy.
Patients who are severely ill or pose a threat to themselves or others are often hospitalized, either until the threat has passed or on a long-term basis. In addition to medications and talk therapy, hospitals employ many different types of psychiatric treatment to help patients, including art therapy and incentive programs that reward progress with extra privileges.
For patients with psychological disorders, there is no single approach that is thought to work best. Psychiatric treatment constantly evolves as researchers learn more about how the brain works, and what role certain chemicals play in mental illness. Psychiatrists and other mental health practitioners must be willing to adapt to new methods of treatment, and often a combination of therapies and practices provide the most effective support against mental illness.