Treatments & Interventions Research, Articles & Resources

Karina Thadani
Last updated:
Erin L. George, MFT
Erin L. George, MFT
Medical editor

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An Introduction to Treatments & Interventions

Many disorders affect health, whether it's a mental disorder impacting psychological well-being or a medical condition causing pain. Fortunately, in many cases, treatment can help alleviate symptoms and cure the disorder. Those with diagnosed medical conditions generally receive treatment plans from their doctor. Individuals with mental health conditions, however, often deny receiving and following through with treatment help.

According to Mental Health America, over 50% of adults with a mental disorder don't get diagnosed. (1) It's also common for people with substance use disorder to go untreated. Possible reasons for this include limited access to treatment facilities, high costs, and embarrassment. (2) Whatever the reason may be, avoiding treatment is harmful. Poor mental wellness is linked to problems like cancer, cardiovascular disease, and dementia.

If someone is struggling with a health condition, friends and family members should encourage them to speak with a doctor. For cases of substance use, staging an intervention can help. Ultimately, the sooner treatment begins, the sooner the patient can achieve symptom relief. Below are some common treatments for mental health and medical conditions, as well as tips on hosting interventions for loved ones.

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Mental Health Treatments

In the United States alone, about 20% of Americans experience a mental health disorder every year. (3) These are conditions that affect mood, thoughts, and behavior. Examples include depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and substance use. As mentioned above, mental health conditions increase the risk of physical health problems. They can also negatively impact jobs, relationships, and daily responsibilities. (4)

There are many possible causes of mental health disorders, such as serious stress, childhood trauma, or drug and alcohol use. Genetics may also play a role. (5) Regardless of the cause, treatment is essential to improving symptoms. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness California, mental health treatment is effective in over 70% of patients. (6) Here are some common treatment methods:

  • Psychotherapy. Also known as talk therapy, this treatment involves discussing problems with a mental health counselor. A well-known type is cognitive behavioral therapy, in which patients work to replace negative thought patterns with positive ones. Practitioners use psychotherapy in group settings and one-on-one sessions. Approximately 75% of psychotherapy patients claim the practice has benefited them. (7)
  • Medication. Depending on the condition, doctors may recommend medication. For example, a provider might prescribe depression patients antidepressants, which improve mood by altering brain chemistry. (8) This drug treatment is effective in up to 60% of patients. (9)
  • Rehab. Individuals with substance use disorder may benefit from inpatient treatment, like rehab. This involves withdrawing from alcohol or drug use in a professional facility. Generally, the patient has access to psychotherapy, medical support, and social support in this type of facility or program. (10)

In addition to professional treatment, it's helpful to join support groups. For example, those struggling with alcoholism may find strength by joining an organization of people experiencing the same issues, such as Alcoholics Anonymous. (11) Spending time with healthy friends and family can also improve symptoms. (12)

Medical Treatments

Medical treatment involves taking care of a patient to resolve or manage an illness, injury, or disorder. (13) Generally, it follows an official diagnosis of an acute or chronic medical condition. Acute conditions are ones that occur and are healed quickly, such as broken bones, colds, and viruses. Chronic conditions, on the other hand, have gradual, progressive symptoms that usually cannot be healed. Examples include Alzheimer's disease, arthritis, and diabetes. (14)

There are three main types of treatment: preventative, curative, and palliative. Preventative care, which includes shots and tests, is geared toward preventing problems before they arise. (15) Curative care, as the name suggests, aims to resolve a condition that already exists. If no permanent treatment is available, the patient may receive palliative care, which focuses on symptom management. (16) Well-known medical treatments include the following:

  • Surgery. Surgical procedures are invasive solutions that treat illnesses or injuries by cutting into the body. Possible reasons for surgery include removing diseased tissues or tumors, transplanting organs, or taking biopsies. (17)
  • Prescription medication. Depending on the health condition, doctors may prescribe medications as part of a treatment plan. For example, opioids (which limit the brain's ability to receive pain) can treat pain conditions. Unlike over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, prescription drugs cannot be bought at pharmacies without a doctor's order. (18)
  • Intravenous treatments. During intravenous (IV) therapy, patients receive necessities (such as fluids, nutrients, or blood) through a needle inserted in a vein. This needle is connected to a plastic bag filled with the required substance. (19)

While some medical treatments must be administered in hospital settings, patients can use others (like prescription drugs) at home. If the patient is not hospitalized, doctors may also recommend implementing good lifestyle habits. These include exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and maintaining a healthy diet. (20)

Natural & Holistic Treatments

Natural treatments rely on non-medical solutions to help manage health symptoms. While they're generally not used to treat or heal conditions on their own, they may be used in conjunction with medical treatments. (21)

Many natural treatments are holistic, which means they focus on treating all parts of the body—not just the medical condition. In other words, they aim to improve both physical and mental wellness. (22) Here are some common natural treatments:

  • Natural substances. This treatment involves ingesting substances made from nature. They may take the form of vitamins, plants, or dietary supplements.
  • Mind-body therapies. These exercises target the mind and body by combining mental concentration with physical movement. Examples include meditation, yoga, and tai chi.
  • Body-based treatments. In this treatment, physical touch is used to relax the body and relieve stress. Chiropractic and massage treatments are two common examples.
  • Acupuncture. This practice, which is popular in Chinese medicine, uses needles to stimulate the body's natural healing process.

It's important to note that just because something is natural doesn't mean it's safe. Certain natural treatments (like supplements) can negatively interact with medical treatments. Thus, it's a good idea to consult a doctor before using these solutions. (23)

What Is an Intervention?

While some people readily pursue health treatments, others avoid them. This is especially common among those who engage in addictive behaviors, such as alcoholism, drug use, or gambling addictions. As discussed earlier, a major reason for this is the social stigma surrounding addiction. Many people struggling with substance use feel embarrassed or guilty about their disorder. (24)

Because of the social stigma, people may try to hide their substance use disorder from friends and family. This can worsen the disorder and increase isolation. To help those dealing with substance use, loved ones may rely on interventions.

Put simply, an intervention involves recruiting friends and family to have an honest, open conversation with someone going through substance use. It may also include someone who is knowledgeable about drug and alcohol treatment, such as a doctor or counselor. Although every intervention is different, they usually feature the following:

  • Reviewing behaviors. Loved ones provide examples that demonstrate why the substance use disorder needs treatment. For example, they might share specific stories or destructive behaviors that have negatively impacted the person with substance use and their relationships.
  • Emphasizing treatment. After addressing the problem, the next step is focusing on the solution. Oftentimes, loved ones will come up with a specific treatment plan (such as the name of a rehab facility or a substance use counselor).
  • Providing incentives. It's possible that the person with substance use will still refuse treatment by the end of the intervention. In these cases, loved ones should explain their next steps. For example, a spouse might say they will move out of the home if the person doesn't pursue treatment. (25)

Ultimately, the goal of an intervention is to encourage treatment. For the best results, it's important to plan out interventions and approach the topic sensitively.

How to Do an Intervention

Staging an intervention requires thought and care. The last thing anyone wants is for the subject of the intervention to feel attacked. Here are a few tips to help make the process a success:

  • Pick a comfortable location. Picking a location that is familiar to the intervention target, such as their home or the home of a loved one, might make them feel more at ease.
  • Recruit the right people. When asking people to participate, try to choose individuals that will help the intervention target. In other words, everyone involved should have a vested interest in seeing the person improve.
  • Plan ahead. Interventions should not be spontaneous. In addition to planning the location and participants, it's helpful if everyone plans out what they're going to say. It's also advisable to rehearse the process beforehand.
  • Get professional assistance. Planning an intervention isn't easy. It's often helpful to recruit someone who is familiar with the process, such as a doctor or intervention counselor. (26)

While hosting an intervention may sound stressful, it's important to do it sooner rather than later. The earlier someone seeks help, the earlier they can improve their health, wellness, and quality of life.