specialized-therapy Some mental health problems require a very specific type of therapy or treatment. These are often reserved for severe problems, or when all other treatments have been exhausted. In addition, other types of specialized therapies can be more effective based on individual preferences, such as art, music, or animal-supported therapy.

Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)

ECT is one of the safest and most effective treatments for depression. With ECT, a finely controlled electrical current is applied to the brain via electrodes on the scalp while the patient is under general anesthesia. It has shown to be extremely effective in severely depressed or suicidal individuals, and also has shown great success in treating mania.

ECT is often misunderstood by the public, often being confused with shock therapy. ECT is not painful, and it is not a “quick fix” to mental health problems. ECT is usually given three times a week for a total of two to four weeks.

During the procedure, patients are put to sleep with general anesthesia and an electrical current is passed through the brain. This causes a brief seizure in the brain. The process is closely monitored and the patient will have no memory of the treatment upon waking.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, ECT is particularly beneficial in the following circumstances:

  • When a need exists for rapid treatment response, such as in pregnancy
  • When a patient refuses food and that leads to nutritional deficiencies
  • When a patient’s depression is resistant to antidepressant therapy
  • When other medical ailments prevent the use of antidepressant medication
  • When the patient is in a catatonic stupor
  • When the depression is accompanied by psychotic features
  • When treating bipolar disorder, including both mania and depression
  • When treating mania
  • When treating patients who have a severe risk of suicide
  • When treating patients who have had a previous response to ECT
  • When treating patients with psychotic depression or psychotic mania
  • When treating patients with major depression
  • When treating schizophrenia

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Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)

While ECT utilizes an electrical current, TMS utilizes a magnetic field to induce a much smaller electric current that does not result in seizure or loss of consciousness. TMS does not require general anesthesia and is considered an outpatient service. Patients undergoing TMS typically receive four or five treatments a week over the course of four to six weeks.
TMS has few side effects and is both safe and effective for treatment resistant depression. However, ECT is generally more effective than TMS.

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Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS)

VNS is sometimes referred to as a “pacemaker for the brain”. The treatment consists of an electrical device placed under the skin near the collarbone that connects to the vagus nerve in the neck. This device sends electrical pulses to the nerve, similar to how a pacemaker sends electrical currents to the heart. VNS is often used for certain types of epilepsy and treatment-resistant depression.

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Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR)

EMDR was originally created to treat and cope with the negative effects of traumatic memories. EMDR treatment consists of 8 phases: eye movements are used during one part of the session. Once the therapist determines which memory is causing problems, the patient is asked to hold that memory in thought as the patient uses their eyes to track the therapist’s hand as it moves back and forth across the patient’s vision. While this happens, internal associations arise and the client begins to process the memory and distressing feelings. In successful EMDR therapy, the meaning of a painful event is changed at an emotional level. For example, a rape survivor may shift from feeling horror or self-disgust, to holding firm to the belief that “I survived it and I am strong.”

Phase 1: Patient history and treatment planning
Phase 2: Teaching of coping skills
Phase 3 – 6: Target memories are identified and processed using EMDR procedures
Phase 7: Closure
Phase 8: Recap of procedure

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Creative Therapies

creative-therapies Art therapy is a process in which clients use creative outlets in order to explore their feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem. The creative process involved in expressing oneself helps to resolve conflicts and manage behaviors and feelings. Art therapy is beneficial to many individuals, particularly because of the ability to express things that may be difficult to articulate in words during talk therapy.

While art therapy tends to focus on avenues such as painting, drawing, or sculpting, music therapy focuses on listening to or creating music. Music therapy boasts the same accomplishments as art therapy – exploring feelings, reconciling emotional conflicts, fostering self-awareness, etc. – just through a musical medium.

Dance/movement therapy is another form of creative therapy that uses psychotherapeutic use of movement to further cognitive, physical, and social integration of self. Dance/movement therapy focuses on the movement that emerges within the therapeutic relationship. This movement simultaneously serves as the material for assessment and as the means of developing therapeutic interventions.

Drama therapy is the use of drama and theater processes to connect with the inner self. Drama therapists may incorporate improvision, theater games, enactment, and storytelling, depending on the client’s needs, interests, and abilities.

Creative therapies are great for individuals with those interests. For example, a musician will likely benefit the most from music therapy, and someone interested in plays will likely benefit the most from drama therapy.

Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) / Pet Therapy


Animal assisted therapy is different from traditional service dogs. While many therapy pets are dogs, it can be an animal of any species. Therapy animals have been obedience trained and screened for their ability to interact safely with humans and other animals. Just like other types of therapies, AAT has shown to improve a patient’s social, emotional, or cognitive functioning. Some common animals used in AAT are dogs, cats, horses (equine-related therapy), and dolphins. AAT has been particularly beneficial in helping individuals with PTSD and autism.

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Recovering Together: The Benefits of Adopting a Companion Animal While in Addiction Recovery


Hypnotherapy can be described as a therapy of suggestion. In a typical session, clients are guided into a state of focused deep relaxation. Have you ever driven home from work, and once arriving home, you find that you don’t remember the trip home? That is the sort of focused, relaxed state that hypnotherapy uses. The client does not fall asleep, but rather therapists focus on “quieting the conscious mind” so that the subconscious mind can surface. The therapist then suggests ideas and lifestyle changes to the client, where the ideas will be planted in the subconscious and lead to positive changes. Hypnotherapy has shown effectiveness in pain management, relaxation, and stress management.

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Laughter Therapy / Humor Therapy

Laughter therapy is focused on the old adage “laughter is the best medicine”. Laughter therapy uses humor to promote overall health and wellness. It has been effective in relieving physical and emotional pain, stress, and discomfort, as well as reducing depression and insomnia.

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Light Therapy

Most commonly associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder, light therapy uses controlled exposure to light to treat some mood disorders. So far, studies have shown that light therapy is effective in treating depression, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, and sleep disorders.

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Primal Therapy

Primal therapy focuses on fully venting a pain or psychological wound by re-experiencing them. Methods include screaming, weeping, or whatever else is needed to full feel and vent the hurt. The primary goal of primal therapy is to identify the root of an issue, re-live the hurt, express them, and let them go so that the conditions can resolve.

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Wilderness Therapy

Wilderness Therapy takes clients into the great outdoors to pursue survival skills and self-reflection. The benefits are pretty conclusive – spending time outdoors can lower anxiety, boost mood, and improve self-esteem.

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