1. MORE mental health and addiction treatment programs will incorporate nutrition education and other nutritional programs in their treatment of mental illness and addiction.
It’s really frustrating. Very few mental health programs, in-patient or out-patient, allocate resources to nutrition education (or improved food/diet programs).
Every few months scientists tell us that diet isn’t only relevant to physical health but to mental health as well. In our old newsletter C.R. and I wrote a column called Mood and Food. In it, we discussed the benefits of getting the proper nutrition and offered information on supplements as well as dietary suggestions.
We got only positive feedback on that column, leading us to belief that mental health consumers and their families, therapists, and others are hungry for nutrition news. We’ve written several posts on diet and mental health in Therapy Soup and plan to write many more in 2012. (For example 7 rules of mindful eating for health and weight loss, autism and nutrition, food, mood and weight loss, etc.).
2. MORE psychotherapists will use evidence-based treatment methods and techniques as the bulwark of their practice.
Look, people need to talk. And there is nothing wrong with using some therapy time to build a relationship with unstructured, go-with-the-flow talking. I agree that some measure of un-directed talk is a necessary part of treatment. But many if not most people in therapy respond well to proven treatments, as I argue in Therapy Revolution: Find Help, Get Better, and Move On.
Incorporating treatment methods and techniques that have been shown to work (such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, etc.) should be on every therapist’s can-do list.
3. MORE faith-based future-therapists will enter university programs. There will be an increase (by educators, administrators, legislators) in tolerance, acceptance, and encouragement for those from traditional religious backgrounds to be able to maintain their deeply-held beliefs as they study in and graduate from university programs in the field of mental health.
Spirituality, in general, and some Eastern religious practices such as Yoga and TM are somewhat in vogue with therapists, as are new-age forms of ancient Western religions. I’d argue however, that traditional forms of scripture-based monotheistic religions (like the more traditional Christian and Jewish observance) are not always so well-tolerated by the mental health field. In fact, it is even challenging for therapists from these backgrounds to find acceptance since our religious beliefs are sometimes in conflict with the psychological theories à la mode.
I do a lot of referrals and I always struggle to find qualified psychotherapists for more traditional Christian and Jewish patients and their families. I should also mention that I’ve noticed that Muslims, too are requesting therapists who are able to do Islam-appropriate therapy. It is challenging to find non-religious therapists (let alone religious ones, many of whom have very long waiting lists), who are able to offer therapy that does not conflict with traditional religious beliefs.
This NY Times article also notes that faith-based therapy is hard to find. It states:
Nearly three-fourths of Americans say their whole approach to life is based on religion. But only 32 percent of psychiatrists, 33 percent of clinical psychologists and 46 percent of clinical social workers feel the same. The majority of traditional counselor training programs have no courses dealing with spiritual matters.
I would add that outside of school, spiritual matters are a topic of discussion among therapists—religious matters, however, not so much. In general, our ilk appears to be more comfortable with “general spirituality” than specific religious beliefs. Our God in Therapy Series seeks to address topics related to these and other religion and spirituality questions from a non-mainstream perspective. We have a lot of exciting topics we hope to cover this year.
4. LESS pathologizing of everyone, especially kids.
I’m not saying mental illness doesn’t exist. It does. But it seems that more and more behaviors are labelled at younger and younger ages. For example, (and this is one story of many) a mother we know brought her child to a pre-kindergarten program (she was just going on five and a bit too young for regular kindergarten). After a couple months, the teachers recommended psychiatric evaluation for the child.
The psychiatrist recommended that the child have two different kinds of interventional behavioral therapies, as well as medication for adhd. I have never seen this child professionally, but C.R. and I have known her since she was born as both parents are close friends. Her behavior is well within the range of normal for her age but she does have a very confident, assertive and active nature. Personality differences are not mental illnesses. We can’t medicate for the convenience of adults.
5. LESS “winging it.”
I am a big believer in the use of mental health treatment plans. Most therapists agree. But some don’t. Read more about treatment plans and why I believe they are invaluable and often make the difference between successful and less successful, therapy.
6. Bonus: MORE people in need accessing appropriate treatment.
Although the Internet and other communication technologies have made it easier for people to get help, there is still some lag-time due to finance and insurance issues, education issues, and simply trial and error. We hope that more people who need help get the help they deserve.