Types of Help

The Canadian Mental Health Association advocates for all types of care that help people find optimal mental health. The treatments that a doctor prescribes could include one or more of the following:

  • Medication;
  • Psychotherapy and/or counseling;
  • Alternative methods;
  • Community support services.

Just as there are different causes and symptoms, there are also many different ways to deal with the unique aspects of each mental illness.


Medication can be a crucial component for treatment of certain mental illnesses. Physicians and psychiatrists are medical doctors able to assess an individual’s condition, work with patients to determine a diagnosis, and prescribe medication and/or other treatments necessary in order to help a patient.

Because we are each different, no one treatment or medication will work precisely the same way in two people. Sometimes patients must try different medications until they find one that “fits” – i.e., one that makes them feel better without disruptive side effects. Even the right psychiatric medication can take some time to stabilize a mental illness. While it can seem frustrating to a patient, it is worthwhile following through to find medication(s) that work with that individual.

Psychotherapy and/or Counseling

Psychotherapy and counseling are valuable components of most mental health treatment programs.

  • Psychiatrists are mental health professionals who may diagnose, prescribe medication, and provide psychotherapy for people with serious illnesses. A doctor’s referral is required for psychiatric assessment and therapy.

  • Psychologists can provide support and psychotherapies, such as cognitive therapy (which helps patients learn to effectively change their thinking, feelings, and behaviour). Most forms of psychotherapy use only spoken conversation, though some also use other forms of communication such as the written word, artwork, or touch. Psychologists work on a broad range of issues and often specialise in a particular type of psychology. Therapy may address specific forms of diagnosable mental illness or everyday problems in relationships or in meeting personal goals. 

  • Counselors can also provide support, resources, and assistance to people who need help making positive changes and/or informed choices in their lives. Counselors assist people to better understand themselves by explaining options, setting goals, and helping people to take action. The counselor will talk with the individual to help get a clear idea of the problem and to determine what kinds of options are available. The counselor will then help the individual decide the best course of action.

  • Social workers help people deal with personal and social problems, either directly or by planning or carrying out programs that benefit groups or communities.

Alternative Methods

Alternative methods to improve mental health can be helpful, but should not be used as a substitute for a physician’s diagnosis or treatment. Alternative approaches include:

  • Self-help groups
    In these groups, people in similar situations can share advice and help and can support each other.
  • Nutritional or naturopathic counseling
    Nutritional counseling can provide education on healthy food choices and a balanced diet in order to improve overall health. Naturopathic counseling emphasizes the body’s potential to heal itself and focuses on prevention and balance. Practitioners can provide options and education about botanical supplements and treatment of environmental toxicities.
  • Physical exercise
    Physical exercise contributes to enhanced mood and improves overall health.
  • Yoga
    Yoga involves physical exercise, stretching, and relaxation techniques, all of which can have physical and emotional benefits.
  • Meditation
    Some people find meditation provides them with stress relief and improved focus.
  • Spirituality
    Exploring one’s spiritual options through a chaplain or community church can provide people with additional support and purpose in their lives.
  • Employee Assistance Programs
    These confidential programs offer resources and counseling to employees. They are sometimes offered through employers in medium to large organizations as part of the employee benefit package.

 Community Support Services

CMHA and many other organizations offer community support services to help people manage life with a mental illness. Areas where community services help people include:

  • Housing
  • Employment
  • Resources or referrals
  • Education
  • Recreation
  • Daily living skills
  • Support for individuals and their family members

Many people find that a combination of strategies is what helps the most.