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What Should I Expect from Mental Health Treatment?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 17, 2024
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What a person can expect from mental health treatment may vary depending on the reason the person seeks treatment and the kind of practitioner who provides it. Sometimes mental health treatment means seeking counseling to discuss issues from the past or present that are troubling. Alternately, a person might be looking for diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. Concurrently dealing with mental illness and life issues is very common

In most cases, one thing people can expect from mental health treatment is an initial conversation about what treatment will be provided with a practitioner who could be a psychiatrist, psychologist, licensed clinical social worker, marriage and family therapist or someone else licensed to give care. They can also plan on hearing about level of confidentiality they will have while under care, and in individual counseling this usually means practitioners will not talk about them with anyone else without permission, unless they deem the person is a risk to self or others.

First sessions with a practitioner are focused on gathering information. People can expect from mental health treatment that information gathering is likely to include screening for common mental illnesses. This may be even more focused if a person has first sought help from a psychiatrist for suspected illness.

Any form of therapy sessions tend to be oriented on the people being provided care and not the counselor or psychiatrist. Therapists range in how much information they give about themselves, but many give very little. Curiosity about the practitioner is likely to be met with questions to the client about why they’re curious.

Sometimes people can expect from mental health treatment that sessions will be ordered in a particular way. They may do exercises with a therapist, simply come in and be expected to talk, run through symptoms medications are causing, or have a lively back-and-forth with a counselor. These patterns are usually easy to recognize after the first few sessions, and clients tend to pick up what to do. Practitioners certainly don’t mind questions about what a client ought to be doing within a session, if this isn’t understood.

Another thing to expect from mental health treatment is differing treatment lengths. Some people remain in counseling or as patients of a psychiatrist for years and others have ten to twenty sessions and are finished. Deciding when people are cured, especially of routine problems and anxieties, is nearly impossible; it is much easier to determine how effective medication treatments are. Usually the client decides when to leave any form of counseling, and could return to treatment at a later point with more issues or with resurgence of the same problem.

Mental health treatment can be rigorous and difficult at times. As part of treatment people will, when ready, touch on difficult emotional states. Dealing with these things can sometimes make people feel worse before they feel better. Examining conflicted states or difficult areas often results in less conflict, but some people have very deep troubles that might require remaining in emotionally vulnerable states for much longer.

Most of the time, therapy isn’t scripted. Each person can expect from mental health treatment an individualized experienced based on many different factors. It’s also important for people to realize that if they feel treatment is not helpful, there are many other practitioners with different methods who might provide a better fit.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGEEK contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

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Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGEEK contributor, Tricia...
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