What Do You Mean By “Mental” Health?

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. Mental health is much greater than a particular behavior or a specific disorder, your mental health is the sum total of your overall psychosocial-relational life.

Over the course of life, most people experience distress in their mental wellbeing at some point or another. Life is hard, relationships are complicated, the world is a complex place to navigate. How you think, feel, and behave are the key variables that affect your mental health either positively or negatively.

Positive mental health allows people to:

  • Have healthy, meaningful relationships
  • Cope effectively with the stressors of life
  • Work more productively
  • Feel greater levels of satisfaction in their life

Early Warning Signs:

  • Eating or sleeping too much or too little
  • Pulling away from people and usual activities
  • Having low or no energy
  • Feeling numb or like nothing matters
  • Having unexplained aches and pains
  • Feeling helpless or hopeless
  • Smoking, drinking or using drugs more than usual
  • Feeling unusually confused, forgetful, on edge, angry, upset, worried, or scared
  • Yelling or fighting with family and friends
  • Experiencing severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships
  • Having persistent thoughts and memories you can’t get out of your head
  • Hearing voices or believing things that are not true
  • Thinking of harming yourself or others
  • Inability to perform daily tasks like taking care of your kids or getting to work or school

Where Do I to Start?

Issues with mental health, especially if they’re chronic (persistent or recurring often), can be debilitating. Your body can respond physically to depression or anxiety much like it does to physical illness. Sometimes, mental problems can actually be caused by a physical condition. The first person to see if you think you are having a problem is your primary care doctor.

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms, how long you’ve been having them, and whether they’re constant or come and go. Your doctor will check for physical problems that could be causing your symptoms and help you decide what types of mental health services might be best for you.  

What’s the Difference Between Counseling, Coaching, and Psychotherapy?

At QMI, we offer several optionsAlthough the terms counseling and therapy are often used interchangeably, there are differences in their form and function.

Counseling and Coaching both focus on more specific, shorter-term issues. Counseling is designed to help a person address a particular problem, such as addiction or stress management, while Coaching is more specific, measurable, future-focused and goal oriented. Both can be used help you with problem-solving, learning a specific coping technique, problem-solving and flushing out future plans.

Psychotherapy is more long-term than counseling and focuses on a broader range of issues. The underlying principle is: A person’s patterns of thinking and behavior affect the way that person interacts with the world. Depending on the specific type of psychotherapy that is being used, the goal is to help people feel better equipped to manage stresses. Understanding patterns in their behavior that may interfere with personal goals, tools to have more satisfying relationships, and to ultimately achieve emotional and intellectual regulation in response to stressful situations. If someone has a form of mental illness such as depression or an anxiety disorder, psychotherapy also addresses the ways the illnesses affect daily life and focuses on how to best understand and manage its symptoms.

What are Some Types of Psychotherapy?

There are numerous approaches to psychotherapy, (also called talk therapy), from which mental health professionals draw their treatment practices. Different types of psychotherapies are often better-suited to specific types of problems. For example, some psychotherapies are designed mainly to treat disorders like depression or anxiety, while others focus more on helping people overcome problems with relationships or obstacles to greater life satisfaction.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapies

The cognitive-behavioral theory emphasizes the cognitions or thoughts a person has as an explanation of how mental health problems are formed. Many types of theories in psychology could fit under this broad category, and it would be difficult to do them all justice, so we are going to focus on some of the general points of them all.

Cognitive-behaviorists generally believe in the role of social learning in childhood development, the ideas of modeling and reinforcement. From this lens, individual personalities come from these experiences. Critical learning, identification of appropriate (and inappropriate) thoughts and feelings, as well as imitation of these behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. Children learn by observing and imitating. There’s also a lot of discussion about how a human’s innate drives and habits affect all of this, but we won’t get into all that. Save to say that there is such a belief that it is these innate drives which underlie the motivation of human behavior.

Dysfunction is a natural offshoot of this theory. If your drives aren’t properly reinforced and developed through proper and healthy social interactions, then you may learn unhealthy (or dysfunctional) ways of coping with stress or life problems. Or, alternatively, somewhere the individual learned certain patterns of thinking which are either irrational or unhealthy, likely reinforced (often unwittingly) by a parent or significant person in the child’s development. If you grow up in a maladaptive or unhealthy environment, or you don’t learn, for whatever reasons, proper coping skills, you can have mental disorder problems later on in life. The fact is that in this theory, humans are viewed as basically neutral. It is the environment and the other people they grow up with which shapes a person into a healthy or unhealthy human being.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy, in a nutshell, seeks to change a person’s irrational or faulty thinking (cognitive distortions) and behaviors by educating the person and reinforcing positive experiences that will lead to fundamental changes in the way that person copes.

Cognitive-behaviorists use a wide variety of techniques, which are usually dependent, to some degree, on the patient’s presenting problem. For instance, a therapist would not use the same exact techniques to help someone who is suffering from a fear of heights as someone who is suffering from depression. The underlying theory is likely similar. Cognitive-behavioral therapy has had some of the greatest success in research with a wide variety of disorders, from phobias to anxiety to depression. This therapy is one of the few empirically validated therapies on the market today. Does that mean it will work for you? Not necessarily, but it’s probably worth your effort to try it out.

Humanistic/Existential Therapies

The basis of this theory is that it views human beings as basically good and positively, with the freedom to choose all of their actions and behaviors in their lives. What motivates behavior is “self-actualization,” or the desire to seek to become something more of oneself in the future. Because an individual can be conscious of their own existence under this theory, that person is also fully responsible for the choices they make to further (or diminish) that existence. Responsibility is a key ingredient of this theory, and that all humans are responsible for the choices they make in their lives, with regards to their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. This theory tends to emphasize these epic and philosophical personal challenges.

Therapy tends to emphasize these struggles and the individual that comes into therapy as being a unique person. It emphasizes the individualism of everybody and seeks to work with that individual’s strengths and weaknesses as they apply to their particular problems. It also seeks to help the individual find themselves and their own answers to the philosophical struggles mentioned above since no two people’s answers are going to be alike. The therapist is there more as a guide than as a teacher or authority figure, to help the patient learn more about themselves and what it means to be on this planet for such a very short time. Therapy can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few years, although it tends toward the longer end since its focus is much broader than most other therapies here.

Eclectic Therapy

As its name indicates, eclectic therapy is a therapeutic approach that incorporates a variety of therapeutic principles and philosophies in order to create the ideal treatment program to meet the specific needs of the patient or client.

Instead of insisting upon strict adherence to one particular approach or school of thought, eclectic therapists employ elements from a range of therapeutic techniques, with the goal of establishing a course that is personally tailored to the patient or client.

In a paper that was published on PsychCentral, therapists John M. Grohol, PsyD, described the eclectic therapy in the following terms:

“Eclectics use techniques … from all schools of therapy. They may have a favorite theory or therapeutic technique that they tend to use more often or fall back on, but they are willing and often use all that is available to them. After all, the key here is to help the patient as quickly and as effectively as possible.”

The primary benefit of eclectic therapy is that the therapy is customized to meet the unique needs of the patient. Personalizing the therapeutic experience in order to best address and respond to the needs of the patient, the eclectic therapist ensures that the most effective therapeutic techniques are integrated into treatment.

Any condition that can be treated via any type of therapy is capable of being treated with eclectic therapy. Thus, individuals with addictions, substance abuse disorders, eating disorders, behavior compulsions, mood disorders, and other forms of emotional or psychological issues may be effectively treated by a therapist who embraces the philosophy of eclectic therapy.