In the following entry, you will learn some basic aspects of mental health practice, as well as a summary of basic recommendations you should expect from mental health treatment.
Mental health practice
Mental health practice is a broad topic that covers a number of professions, intervention proposals, theoretical frameworks and tools of different natures. All of them are related to the care that is carried out when people’s mental health is altered.
As can be imagined, the ways in which mental health can be affected can be many and very different, so that, necessarily, in this article, we will manage to mention some of them, and not cover the subject in an exhaustive way.
First of all, given the generality of this topic, we will address some elements that should be shared and included in all mental health practices, regardless of the specific profession.
- Mental health practice should be well defined
When we talk about a well-designed practice, we mean different things. The first of these is that a good mental health practice should be easy to replicate, that is, other professionals who require or wish to include a specific procedure or proposal should find it easy to take it from elsewhere, and replicate it for their own purposes.
On the other hand, a mental health practice, when well defined, has the power to transparently show the specific techniques and interventions that must be used for the procedure to be successful. The proposals for intervention in mental health practice should not be obscure or difficult to understand, as is the case in many cases.
Ideally, every mental health practice should include a manual, guide or set of specified procedures, so that other professionals can take the same intervention proposal and implement it in the best possible way.
- A good mental health practice reflects the goals of the client
In general health problems, and in specific terms when mental health problems occur, the protagonist is the patient, who suffers the direct and most unpleasant consequences of the specific problem or disorder he or she has. It is common in mental health practice for patients to be seen as incapable of making decisions.
On the other hand, it also happens that professionals see patients as individuals who need to be assisted 100% of the time and under any circumstances. What is being forgotten here is people’s autonomy and independence, which is very counterproductive.
The recommendation is that in all mental health practices, as far as possible and within the limits of reason, patients should participate in the decision-making process about their own treatment. This could have a number of positive consequences for the treatment and improvement of the patient’s quality of life, among which are:
- Lower attrition rates: when patients participate in decision-making about the treatment they are going to be in, there is a greater probability that they will commit to their process and avoid attrition at any time, leaving the treatment half-finished.
- Greater commitment to treatment. Just imagine that you have a depressive disorder, you feel bad about yourself, and all the health professionals do is give you direct instructions on what to do, without considering your ideas about treatment approaches. This is not the idea, and it can actually result in negative effects for patients.
- Mental health practice requires to be consistent with societal goals
Mental health practice should always take into consideration that mental health, on an individual basis, is meaningless. Humans are highly social beings, and for the same reason, our lives are woven around a complex network of relationships with other people. Life in community is the core of who we are and of our aspirations.
When a person comes to ask for help from a mental health professional, it is common for them to narrate events that are related to other people, events that are related to the mental health problems they are experiencing. It may be that they are having problems performing adequately at work, or that relationship problems are making their situation worse.
It is possible that the basis of the problem is precisely social interaction. In a psychotherapy process, for example, one may discover that behind the depressive symptomatology there is a search for greater definition in the field of identity; the person feels empty because he or she has not had the opportunity to explore his or her own characteristics and what they are. This is closely related to the support network they have and how they react to their way of being.
For the above reasons, a well designed mental health practice should always be in line with the goals of society. Otherwise, the person will develop strategies that go against their culture and community, and this will bring them even more problems.
- Mental health practice should demonstrate the effectiveness
What if all the procedures that a doctor uses, in an invasive way, were not previously tested for their effectiveness? What if the pharmaceutical industries would not take previous years of research before launching a new drug?
This could create a lot of problems. The treatments used in mental health practice need to be tested and implemented in a controlled manner first. This, in order to have more certainty about the optimal functioning of the different proposals when offering some alternative treatment to patients.
When the effectiveness of the treatment is demonstrated, for example, by means of different empirical studies (with strict codes of ethics, of course), a set of tests can be created and a meta-analysis carried out, from which it can be determined with a greater degree of certainty whether a treatment is effective and relevant to a certain problem.
When mental health practice does not promote the use of evidence as a decision criterion, what remains is a greater level of arbitrariness on the part of professionals, who, as human beings, could make many mistakes that could result in negative consequences for patients.
- A good mental health practice should look for minimal side effects
On the other hand, it is important to mention that in the different approaches to treatment, especially in the clinical context, the side effects and/or adverse effects of the treatments should be sought to be minimal. It is always a cost-benefit calculation. Is what this patient is going to gain from this treatment greater than the side effects he or she is going to experience as a result?
If the answer is yes, the treatment should be continued and the person should be made to undergo the treatment in the most complete and committed way possible. If not, this treatment should be evaluated, since in at least one case it is not responding to the mission for which it was created.
Sometimes, when bad decisions are made in the context of mental health, ethics are at stake. The decisions professionals make and the recommendations they provide should be based, among other things, on clear ethical principles, where the benefit of the patient is a central factor.
- Good mental health treatment should have positive long-term results
Unlike interventions in acute mental health, which are focused on decreasing and improving critical symptoms and are more urgent, treatment in general terms should have a good prospect of improving and increasing the quality of life in long-term treatments.
Sometimes the treatments show a lot of effectiveness at the beginning when the symptoms are very intense and/or frequent, but later, when these are shown in a more moderate way, the effect of the treatment is lower, so the person’s quality of life is not improved to a higher level, within the limits of what is possible, of course.
- Presenting reasonable costs
This is another very important aspect when talking about mental health care. Sometimes treatments are too expensive and people can’t even afford to start them. If the cost is too high, there will be other basics of daily life that are above it.
For example, if the person is low income, even their basic needs may be difficult to meet, so they may not be able to take on treatment that carries a lot of costs.
Good mental health treatment should be affordable, which does not mean it should be free.
- At the time of implementation, treatment should be relatively easy
On the other hand, we find that the treatment should have clear guidelines and procedures, which may be easy to apply since many times there is not enough time or resources to acquire extensive preparation in any treatment proposal.
On many occasions, mental health interventions are more or less urgent, and the professionals available to address these needs are not always sufficient.
- Adaptability and flexibility
Finally, a crucial aspect is that the treatment should be adaptable to diverse communities, clients and/or groups. As is well known, mental health problems occur all over the world, so it is necessary that the procedures used for their treatment can be taken to different places, make some modifications, and be used with good results.
When the treatment, for different reasons, is too specific or complex, the possibility of implementing it in another context is reduced and this goes against or can affect the people who have that particular need.
Mental health care can be given in different aspects, and the most important thing is that some minimum criteria are maintained and cared for in order to ensure that the interventions are of good quality and in favor of the people affected. That is, that the objective of helping to cure people who need it is met.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about mental health practice
- Models of Mental Health (Foundations of Mental Health Practice)
- Mental Health Law in England and Wales: A Guide for Mental Health Professionals (Mental Health in Practice Series)
- Values and Ethics in Mental Health Practice (Post-Qualifying Social Work Practice Series)
- Approved Mental Health Practice: Essential Themes for Students and Practitioners
- The costs of mental ill health
- Evidence‐based interventions for global mental health: role and mission of a new Cochrane initiative
- Cognitive Behavioural Interventions for Mental Health Practitioners