Common Treatments

We have provided this quick summary of what is commonly available on the NHS so that people can make informed decisions about their care

 

There's some alternative approaches suggested at the bottom of the page too!

 

Standards of Care

 

There are standards of care, policies and guidelines that all NHS mental health staff should be adhering to. Find out more about this in the Care Standards section.

 

These standards include being 'trauma-informed'. Although there is growing awareness about this professionals still don't always mean the same thing when they use the word 'trauma'. Please be aware that professionals might claim to be 'trauma-informed' but may not be appropriately trained or be following the guidelines that are necessary to avoid harm. 

Medications

What is it?  

Psychiatric medications are prescribed to manage many different mental health conditions. They affect brain chemistry to alleviate symptoms like anxiety, depression or psychosis. Their effectiveness varies from person-to-person and consultation with a doctor is crucial for proper use.

 

 

Types / Names:

Antidepressants, Antipsychotics, Anxiolytics, Mood Stabilisers, Anti-convulsants, Stimulants, Sedatives

 

 

When is it helpful?

  • Can resolve symptoms very quickly and only requires remembering to take medication.
  • Their effectiveness can be tracked to make sure medications are working as they should.
  • There are many different options to try because they work differently for each individual. 
  • View NHS information
  • View Mind Information

 

 

When is it not helpful?

  • Some doctors and psychiatrists may assume that difficulties have a biological basis that requires medication without considering other psychological or social factors. 
  • Side-effects from some medications can be severe and it may be difficult to stop taking them without withdrawal effects.
  • View our resources

 

 

Tips and Advice:  

  • Medication can significantly improve quality of life and it’s important to make sure that it does this for you. Keep a log of your symptoms to make sure that they are helping to improve them. We have shared some of the official checklists for common mental health conditions that are quick and easy to use.
  • Our free worksheet can help to identify your needs.

Did You Know...

Having a positive relationship with your therapist is what leads to positive outcomes?

 

Regardless of the type of therapy research repeatedly finds that this is the most important factor for therapy to be beneficial. Check out our Navigating Services information if you're having trouble being referred to someone you can really 'click' with. Relationships in common therapies tend to look like:

 

Cognitive Behavioural Therapies = Teacher and Student

 

Psychodynamic Therapies = Parent and Child

 

Behavioural Therapies = Coach and Trainee

 

EMDR = Guide and Explorer

 

Medication = Doctor and Patient

These are the typical roles that take place during these therapies but some therapists may be trained in more than one (so can use different relationship styles) and some will only use person-centred care.  This means that the patient's views and experiences are always central to the treatment in an attempt to equalise the power imbalance in therapy relationships.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

What is it?  

This is a goal-oriented therapy that identifies and modifies negative thought patterns and behaviours. It attempts to shift perceptions and re-direct attention to improve wellbeing. New forms of these therapies can include mindfulness and some trauma-informed neurobiology but they all maintain an emphasis on changing thought patterns. 

 

 

Types / Names:  

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Exposure Therapy, Compassion Focussed Therapy (CFT), Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), Positive Psychology

 

 

When is it helpful?

  • Helps replace negative thought patterns with positive ones and develop healthier behaviours. 
  • Equips individuals with better problem-solving skills and provides new perspectives that someone might not be able to consider without the help of outside support.
  • Is widely available and accessible one-to-one, online, using apps and in groups.
  • Trains individuals to become their own therapist and provides self-help materials.
  • Has received a lot of research funding and is applied to a range of difficulties.
  • View NHS information
  • View Mind Information

 

When is it not helpful?

  • When in severe distress the 'logic' part of our brain shuts down, meaning this therapy has limited value during distressing situations.
  • CBT has not been found to have a long lasting impact on wellbeing and its effectiveness overall has been reducing over the years. Likely because it does not recognise or provide support with real-life problems, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • It can be harmful when negative thoughts are not the source of difficulties (such as racism, abuse, poverty and disabilities). It has therefore been compared to ‘gaslighting’ when applied to some situations.
  • View our resources

 

 

Tips and Advice:  

  • People are sometimes referred to CBT to cope with living with physical health conditions and disabilities but it should not be used to encourage physical activities (techniques known as ‘behavioural activation’ and ‘graded exercise’), to dismiss physical health concerns or to avoid providing support for disabling conditions.
  • Our free worksheet can help to identify your needs by considering what biological and social factors may be affecting your wellbeing.
  • Keep a log of your symptoms to make sure that therapy is helping to improve them. Check out our official checklists for common mental health conditions that are quick and simple to use.

Psychodynamic Therapy

What is it?  

This therapy explores how childhood experiences and unconscious motivations shape current behaviours. The aim is to uncover hidden patterns and improve self-awareness. Relationship dynamics with the therapist are usually analysed but some newer therapies have moved away from this. The basis of Attachment Theory is also psychodynamic.

 

 

Types / Names:  

Psychodynamic, Psychoanalysis, Cognitive Analytic Therapy (CAT), Schema Therapy (combined with CBT), Attachment Theory, Therapeutic Arts Therapies, Internal Family Systems (IFS)

 

 

When is it helpful?

  • To increase personal insight and self-awareness. 
  • Can identify repeating patterns in relationships to allow individuals to make changes.
  • In family interventions or group therapy to analyse the dynamics at play and resolve challenges.
  • Newer therapies, such as Internal Family Systems (IFS) and therapeutic arts, use a psychodynamic approach to uncover unconscious drives but attempt to equalise the power dynamic by being guided by the insights of the individual. 
  • View NHS information

 

When is it not helpful?

  • Psychodynamic theories have a weak evidence base and don't determine outcomes throughout life although this is their claim.
  • It does not consider wider health, social, political or environmental factors, only the individual. This has led to it being described as ‘victim blaming’ in some cases.
  • This traditional school of thought is responsible for the diagnostic category of ‘personality disorders’ which faces growing condemnation across the mental health field.
  • When a therapist operates as the expert on reality this creates high risk for abuses of power and can result in re-traumatisation. 
  • View our resources

 

 

Tips and Advice:  

  • Be aware that this therapy can result in re-traumatisation due to the relationship dynamic used by some therapists and ensure that they are adhering to trauma-informed practice and values.
  • Access newer forms of psychodynamic therapy privately or through charities.
  • Be clear about what your goals and needs are so that you can check this therapy is working towards good outcomes for you. Our free worksheet will help you identify your needs and goals.
  • Keep track of your symptoms to make sure that therapy is  improving them. We have some official checklists that are really simple to use and can be shared with healthcare professionals.

Behavioural Therapies

What is it? 

These therapies focus on changing behaviours to build daily living skills, enhance independence, navigate relationships and improve quality of life. They use techniques (such as planning, systems and trying new things) to address specific issues like anxiety, depression, relationship difficulties or post-injury rehabilitation. 

 

 

Types / Names:  

Occupational Therapy, Behavioural Activation, Interpersonal Therapy (IPT), Solution-Focused Brief Therapy, Family Therapy, Systemic Therapy, Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA)

 

 

When is it helpful?

  • For changing specific behaviours through rewards, consequences and reinforcement. 
  • Addresses harmful habits and promotes healthier ones. 
  • Used in treating phobias, addiction, and compulsive behaviours. 
  • Can enhance social and communication skills.
  • Can be helpful in addressing parenting and family issues.
  • Can be useful to improve or regain confidence with daily tasks and achieve set goals.
  • View NHS information

 

 

When is it not helpful?

  • This therapy assumes that individuals need to be trained to behave better but this means adhering to what professionals consider to be 'normal' and not necessarily what is beneficial to the wellbeing of the individual.
  • It can be used to deny access to support services if it is believed than an individual can be taught to do things by themselves.
  • If someone is disabled or neurodiverse (particularly if they have not been diagnosed) this therapy can be harmful and ABA is no longer recommended for use on children. 
  • View our resources

 

 

Tips and Advice:  

  • This therapy should be used to benefit individuals and achieve their goals and should not be used to alter behaviours that do not pose any harm to themselves or others. Behaviours can be a means of communication, self-soothing or highlighting an unmet need that needs to be addressed. 
  • This free worksheet can help identify your goals and ensure this therapy is a good fit for your needs.
  • Our official checklists can be used to quickly and simply keep track of common mental health symptoms so that you can check that this therapy is helping improve your wellbeing.

Humanistic Therapies

What is it?  

Humanistic therapies help people feel better by having a greater understanding of themselves and their feelings (sometimes that includes body sensations). They believe that everyone can 'flourish' when provided with a friendly, supportive and non-judgemental environment. These therapies encourage individuals to guide the therapy process rather than being directed by the therapist. 

 

 

Types / Names:  

Counselling, Person-Centred Therapy, Existential Therapy, Gestalt Therapy, Experiential Therapy

 

 

When is it helpful?

  • Research studies have repeatedly found it to be just as effective as CBT or Psychodynamic therapies although it is less available.
  • For those seeking to understand themselves, their emotions and life purpose. 
  • Ideal for addressing low self-esteem, self-acceptance issues and promoting a positive self-image.
  • Enhancing communication, empathy, and emotional understanding, both personally and in relationships.
  • Assisting individuals in navigating challenges and finding meaning in their experiences.
  • View NHS information

 

 

When is it not helpful?

  • Some may prefer more structure and direction from their therapist than humanistic approaches provide.
  • Some therapies rely heavily on positive psychology principles which may be ableist and harmful for some people, particularly those with disabilities.
  • If you are already very analytical, think deeply and discuss your current problems with peers or loved ones this therapy might not provide much more benefits.
  • View our resources

 

 

Tips and Advice:  

  • Ensure that your therapist is adhering to trauma-informed practices and values.
  • Monitor your symptoms over time to ensure that the therapy is working for you. Our advocacy resources includes free official checklists used by therapists

EMDR Therapy

What is it?  

Although this therapy was originally designed to address trauma memories it can be useful for many (if not all) common mental health difficulties. It involves the therapist directing eye movements while the individual recalls difficult experiences. This process helps reprocess memories to reduce their emotional impact and increase overall wellbeing. 

 

 

Types / Names:  

Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing therapy (EMDR)

 

 

When is it helpful?

  • Has been identified as the most effective method for reducing distressing memories and cognitions in a short space of time.
  • Although originally used to treat PTSD it has been demonstrated as helpful for many mental health difficulties, including anxiety, depression and low self-esteem.
  • It works quickly and doesn’t require talking about distressing things out loud.
  • This therapy uses a 'first or worst' approach to selecting which memories to work on, meaning that having trouble remembering the details of past events or if they lasted a long time it is not an issue.
  • View NHS information

 

 

When is it not helpful?

  • Revisiting traumatic memories can be very distressing and harmful if safety has not been properly established. 
  • A phase of Safety and Stabilisation should be completed first. The therapist needs to ensure that the therapy relationship is positive and supportive, and that training on good coping skills has been provided before jumping into processing memories.
  • The mechanisms behind how eye-movements are beneficial during this therapy is not fully understood but is thought to mimic what occurs during REM (deep) sleep.
  • View our resources

 

 

Tips and Advice:  

  • If you are struggling to access this therapy we have provided screening tools used by professionals to diagnose PTSD symptoms on our Navigating Services page.
  • Ensure that your therapist is adhering to trauma-informed practices and values.
  • Check in with your symptoms over time to ensure that this therapy is working for you using our no-fuss official checklists that you can share with healthcare professionals.
  • You can also use our free worksheet can help identify any other needs you may have.

Do you need help navigating the mental health system?

 

We believe that everyone should have access to the help they need when they need it, and be able to make informed decisions about their own healthcare. 

Alternative Approaches

There are many ways to improve health and wellbeing and what works for one person may not work for another. For a fuller list of therapies visit Mind or you can find our more about what to expect from NHS services on our Care Standards page.

 

You can use this free worksheet to find out more about your needs and goals. Below are some non-NHS examples of things that might suit your needs better.

Peer Support

Find your tribe. Many people find that connecting with others who share similar experiences or life challenges is much more valuable than support provided by professionals. Find out more

Nature

Time spent in green spaces or with animals has been demonstrated to significantly reduce stress, improve memory and boost mood. 

Find out more

 

Activism 

Activism and volunteering can reduce feelings of loneliness and depression by increasing our social connection and sense of purpose. Being involved with a cause you care about adds a lot of value and meaning to life. Find out more

Bibliotherapy

Books offer insights, comfort and a different perspective, with so many genres, styles and formats to choose from. They can transport us to other worlds, give us insight into the lives of others and help us explore new possibilities. Find out more

Breathwork

Can improve mental and physical health by enhancing oxygen intake, regulating the nervous system, reducing stress, promoting relaxation and enhancing focus. Find out more

Art, Drama & Music

Expressing yourself through the arts is a great way to improve wellbeing and it can be used to explore and make sense of difficult situations and feelings in a more accessible way. Find out more

Movement 

Walking, running, yoga, dancing, sports, hula hooping - whatever brings you into your body and makes you feel grounded, de-stressed and accomplished. Find out more

Sleep

We need good quality physical rest to feel well but not having this has a big impact on our thinking, mood and emotions too because the brain has no time to rest and process. Find out more

Trauma-Informed 

Being trauma-informed means being aware of how your body and mind are feeling so that you can identify where and when support or changes are needed to improve your wellbeing. Find out more

Writing

Focusing on our problems enough to write about them in detail might sound grim but being able to document your story (or channel it into fiction) generates insights and helps with problem solving. Find out more

Neurofeedback

Enhances brain self-regulation through real-time monitoring that you can see. It improves focus, reduces anxiety and fosters cognitive and emotional well-being. Find out more

 

Deep Brain stimulation

Also known as Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, helps improve quality of life for conditions like depression by stimulating brain cells to boost their function. Find out more

 

 

 

Stay Safe

We have free resources to help with keeping safe during difficult times and immediate support helplines.

 

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