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One of the important things to remember about mental illnesses is that they are treatable, and this is a reason for hope. We still do not have cures, but advances in treatment are occurring rapidly. There are many treatments available for serious mental disorders. These treatments can generally be described as either medical or psychosocial. Medical treatments for mental illness include medications, electroconvulsive therapy, and hospitalization. Psychosocial treatments address psychological and social issues and include counseling or psychotherapy, psychosocial rehabilitation, vocational rehabilitation, case management, and partial hospitalization or day treatment. Not everyone will need all these types of treatments, and they should be selected based on the patient’s individual needs and preferences. Goals for treatment typically include:

  • Reducing symptoms and distress
  • Reducing the need for hospitalization
  • Helping the individual reach his or her fullest potential

Treatment for mental illness can be provided by a variety of mental health professionals. There are many available in the community, with different levels of training and philosophies. You should not be surprised to find that your relative is treated by a team of individuals. There are psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers, nurses, licensed counselors, and substance abuse counselors, among others. Psychiatrists have completed medical school and specialized training in psychiatry. They are able to prescribe medications, and have knowledge about other medical disorders. Psychologists typically have a Ph.D., and can diagnose and treat mental disorders. They also have special training in psychological testing, which is often useful in diagnosis. Clinical social workers are trained to evaluate social environmental issues, as well as in the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. Nurses can administer medications, and have knowledge of a broad range of medical issues. For individuals with severe mental illness, it is vital that they receive care from a psychiatrist. They may also benefit from the services provided from other mental health professionals.