Mental Health Treatments: What’s the Difference Between Psychotherapy, CBT and More?

Many people are quick to identify themselves or others as “totally OCD” or “so ADD.” Yet talking about therapy, medication and lifestyle tweaks to better our mental health is whispered—if that. For instance, when was the last time you called in sick because of anxiety?

You’re not alone if you don’t know where to start with conquering the beast that is mental health and self-betterment. “We know that mental illness is really common, almost 50 per cent of females, and close to that of males, and 20 per cent of pregnant woman are going to suffer from depression or anxiety at some point in their lives,” says Dr. Valerie Taylor, psychiatrist-in-chief at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto. In other words, if you feel like you’re going through something, you probably are. Don’t be intimidated by the endless options for treatment, either. There’s no one-size-fits-all tactic here, but read on to learn some more about the common mental health treatment options for anxiety, depression, and more.


Nobody wants to be seen as a complainer, so chances are that if you’re feeling anxious, depressed or just not quite like yourself, you’re keeping your emotions on lockdown. That’s where psychotherapy comes in—and there are way more options than just lying on a shrink’s couch.

Though most people think of psychoanalysis-type sessions, in which you talk through your problems to find a cause, there is also Cognitive Behavioural Thinking (often referred to as CBT), which teaches you to reframe your thinking and tends to be very effective.

“It’s problem-based and it’s not necessarily about getting into what caused the issues, but looks at ‘How can I deal with the symptoms and move forward?'” says Taylor. “It really tackles thoughts and behaviours and tries to turn them into actions. There are also mindfulness-based therapies, which are really about emotional techniques and grounding and really helping somebody sort of feel like they can control their emotions. Sometimes mindfulness and cognitive therapy can be combined together.” Consider group options if you can’t afford one-on-one sessions.

Lifestyle tweaks

If you can muster the energy to make some changes to your exercise or diet patterns, you could reap huge rewards, according to Taylor. “Exercise can be just as helpful as antidepressants are, and eating a really well-balanced diet can be helpful. Some for people who have had a history of depression and think they’re starting to slip, just really focusing on lifestyle factors and wellness can really help keep the depression from happening. Increasing exercise, decreasing alcohol, making sure you’re sleep a lot [are all great steps].” If you suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which means you get depressed in the winter, you can try a sun lamp, says Taylor, which you can get at a drugstore.


Medication has gotten a bad rap over the years for being zombifying or sort of a last resort. Not so. In fact, it could be your first step. “If you’re already significantly depressed, you’re not going to be capable of engaging in exercise, you’re not going to be capable of engaging in talk therapy,” says Taylor. “So sometimes medications are needed to get a patient well enough so they can do some of the other treatments—it doesn’t have to be forever.”

Just keep in mind that if you’re seeing a therapist who isn’t a medical doctor, you’ll have to ask your family doctor or get a referral to a psychiatrist to find the right medication for you. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t feel results right away. “I think people have to remember that there are a lot of options with regard to medications, so if a person has some trouble tolerating a medication or taking an antidepressant, there are a variety of options. It doesn’t mean you can’t try something else.

Where to begin

Treatment can be overwhelming when you think of all of the above, but if you consider the aforementioned stat that half of us will deal with mental health issues in our lifetime, it’s about time we get comfortable with the fact that seeking treatment is normal.

Consider newer e-treatments, too. Taylor says that Women’s College Hospital will begin offering therapy via iPhone, so people can get a 20-minute FaceTime session even at work (this is catered to women with post-partum depression). Also consider mindfulness apps that you can download on your phone for quick fixes during the day (we love Headspace and Whil). Begin to think of your mental health like your general health; talk about your anxiety attacks the same way you talk about your stomach flus, colds and dry skin.

More Health