6-minute read

Dealing with a mental health concern? Here's what you can do

What is psychotherapy? What does a psychiatrist do? Get to know what kind of help is out there.

Dealing with a mental illness
Photo by Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas from Pexels

Mental health conditions can be treated with various forms of therapy. But sometimes, not knowing where to start can hold people back from getting help.

Understanding the types of treatment out there, as well as the roles of different mental health professionals, can help you find the right support, whether for yourself or someone you care about. Read on to find out more.

We have compiled this resource using online materials shared by professional and expert groups (full list below). The resources on these pages are meant to be educational, and should not be taken as medical advice. If you suspect you have a mental health concern, seek help from professionals before taking any action. 

I want to seek help. Where do I start?

  • Awareness of your situation is the first step. It is okay to feel the way you do. You’re not alone in this battle and many others are experiencing the same struggles as you. 

  • Look for support from people you trust and care for. Let them know how you feel, share with them your fears and anxieties, and how they can support you. Having someone who’ll listen without judgement will help you along your journey.

  • Find out more about your condition to better understand it.

  • Consider talking to your local or family doctor about your condition. They will be able to give you a brief assessment, and direct you to the right mental health services. Remember: asking for professional help does not mean you’re weak.

  • Surround yourself with like-minded people. Join a support group and and journey together with others who have the same condition as you. Having a supportive community provides a safe space for you to share your feelings and provides additional emotional support.

  • Follow up on your medical treatment to improve your condition. You will get there! 

I suspect someone I know is going through something. What steps should I take?

  • It can be scary when someone you love is suffering from a mental illness, but don’t be ashamed of your loved one’s condition. Accepting it can help to ease their hidden feelings of guilt, shame and fear.

  • Just like any other health problem, someone diagnosed with mental illness needs extra love and support. Be open-minded, patient and non-judgemental.

  • Talk to them, and let them know you’re there for them. Be supportive by acknowledging their struggles and listening attentively. While doing so, check on what kind of help or resources they've tried.

  • If they haven’t already done so, encourage them to seek professional support. Remind them that there’s nothing wrong with seeking medical help.

  • If needed, offer to accompany them on medical appointments and treatments.

  • Continue to support them by being involved and helping with their medication, appointments and treatments. 

  • Whom should I seek help from

Everyone's different. Treatment needs to be highly personalised to suit your condition, circumstances, needs and preferences. Some people may need help from only one particular type of health professional, while others may benefit from seeing various people for specific aspects of their treatment. Consider inquiring about your mental health professional’s qualifications and level of training.
 

Scenario

Whom to consult

I want to get medical help, but I don’t know who I should go to.

General Practitioner (GPs)

While your local doctors might not specialise in mental health, they’ll be able to do a brief assessment and refer you to the appropriate mental health professional.

I know my condition well, and I want someone to talk to about my difficulties.

Social Worker

Social workers can help to assess, treat and evaluate your situation. They often provide social and emotional support through methods such as counselling and care planning. They typically work in multidisciplinary teams alongside health and education professionals.

I know my condition well, and I want to receive formal therapy. I don’t necessarily want medication.

Psychologist 

They will be able to provide you with an appropriate psychotherapy method specific to your situation, preferences and needs. Psychologists do not prescribe medication.

I know my condition well, and I want to get professional help along with medication.

Psychiatrist

Psychiatrists are doctors who have undergone further training to specialise in the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions. On top of assessments and medical tests, they can also prescribe medication.

What kind of help is out there?

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy, also known as “talk therapy,” is when a person speaks with a trained therapist in a safe and confidential environment to explore and understand feelings and behaviours and gain coping skills.

During individual sessions, the conversation is often led by the therapist and can touch on topics such as past or current problems, experiences, thoughts, feelings or relationships experienced by the person, while the therapist helps make connections and provide insight.

Studies have found individual psychotherapy to be effective at improving symptoms in a wide array of mental illnesses, making it both a popular and versatile treatment. It can also be used for families, couples or groups.  

Types of psychotherapy

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

Talk therapy that focuses on exploring relationships among a person’s thoughts, feelings and behaviours. This will help to provide answers to daily challenges, and develop constructive ways of thinking and produce healthier behaviours and beliefs. 

 

CBT is used as a treatment for a wide variety of mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, eating disorders and schizophrenia.

Psychodynamic therapy

Talk therapy where the psychologist works to find the cause of the issue through recognition of patterns of behaviour and feelings that are rooted in past experiences. 

Psychodynamic therapy is often useful for treating depression, anxiety disorders, borderline personality disorder, and other mental illnesses.

Hypnotherapy

Hypnotherapy is guided hypnosis, or a trance-like state of focus and concentration achieved with the help of a clinical hypnotherapist. In this state, the root cause for the depression is identified in the mind and resolved by the client together with the therapist.

 

Hypnotherapy can be used to treat anxiety, phobias, substance abuse and bad habits. It can also be used to help improve sleep, learning disorders, communication, and aid in pain management.

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)

Talk therapy that focuses on problem solving and acceptance-based strategies. It also includes developing new skills like coping methods and mindfulness practices, so that the person has the power to improve unhealthy thoughts and behaviours.

 

It was originally developed to treat chronically suicidal individuals with borderline personality disorder.

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR)

EMDR seeks to replace negative emotional reactions to difficult memories with less-charged or positive reactions or beliefs. It uses a specific sequence of phases and bilateral stimulation, such as eye movements, to help the individual process unresolved memories from adverse experiences.

 

It is often used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder.


Animal-assisted therapy (AAT)
What:
AAT brings domesticated animals such as dogs and cats into the psychotherapy process. 
How it helps: AAT has been proven to reduce anxiety levels. When the relationship between the individual and the therapy animal grows, the person also experiences emotional recovery and positive psychological transformation. 
Suitable for: People who perceive hostility or disregard from other humans may respond well to the unconditional affection and attention of animals. 

Art therapy
What:
The use of creative processes and mediums such as painting, sculpture, drama and movement to develop self-awareness and explore emotions.
How it helps: Through treatment, a person can address unresolved emotional conflicts, improve social skills and raise self-esteem.  
Suitable for: People who find it hard to express themselves verbally may find art therapy useful

Music therapy
What:
Music therapy uses music to improve and maintain the physical, psychological, and social well-being of individuals. This includes listening to music, singing, and playing a musical instrument.
How it helps: While not recommended as a standalone treatment, music therapy can help evoke positive emotions and stimulate reward centres in the brain, easing the symptoms of various mental health conditions. 
Suitable for: The diverse nature of music makes it helpful across a wide range of mental health concerns, including depression, anxiety and schizophrenia. 

Dance movement therapy (DMT)
What:
DMT uses movement to help individuals achieve emotional, cognitive, physical and social integration. It can be done in groups or individually.
How it helps: It promotes self-awareness, self-esteem, and provides a safe space for feelings to be expressed. 
Suitable for: DMT can be helpful for many mental health issues, such as eating disorders, depression and anxiety.

Want to know more? Here are the articles we referenced to compile this resource: 

Supporting Someone while looking after yourself 

How To Get Mental Health Help

Mental Health Professionals Who Can Help

Types of Mental Health Professionals

Types of Mental Health Care Professionals 

Who's who in mental health services

Who can assist 

Medical Social Work

Psychotherapy

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): Is it Right for You?

Types of Therapy
 

Contributors

Writer

Yanqin Lin

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