The language of mental wellness can be confusing. The following definitions are to help you understand some common phrases often used in the line of psychiatry, psychology, social work, and mental health.

Admission Beds

When seeking treatment for a serious mental health challenge that poses an immediate risk to someone’s health and safety, it may be necessary to go to your nearest emergency room. If the doctors and county crisis workers decide that an inpatient stay at a psychiatric hospital is necessary, they will likely hold the patient until an “admission bed” is available. It’s synonymous with saying an “open room” at a hospital.


An advocate is an individual who supports another person who is working on their mental wellness. An advocate can help in many ways such as being a personal support for a friend or loved one, being a volunteer for a larger organization, or being a champion for changes in mental health reform.


An antidepressant is a psychiatric medicine that is often prescribed to those who are struggling with clinical depression. Sometimes antidepressants are prescribed for other reasons such as anxiety or sleep disturbances. They work by correcting neurotransmitter imbalances in the brain.

Antipsychotic medicine

An antipsychotic is a type of psychiatric medicine, usually one dealing with the symptoms of psychosis, such as delusions, hallucinations, paranoia, or disordered thoughts.


An assessment is a brief overview that a doctor or medical professional will perform to see the “big picture” of what’s going on. It usually consists of various questions to help identify how well you are functioning, and can range from questions about dates or times, memory, thinking, reasoning, ability to express yourself, moods, and behaviors.

Care Plan

A care plan is usually used in more severe cases of mental health challenges and usually requires several different professionals working together. The care plan will outline the purpose of each step in the plan, help identify goals, and help connect with resources to achieve those goals. For example, a care plan may include seeing a psychiatrist to manage medications, a social worker to manage disability or food stamps, a dietician or nutritionist to manage healthy eating habits, and a counselor to improve coping skills.

Case Management

Case Management is a collaborative process to manage a whole person’s health. It is similar to Care Plans as it includes several different professionals and services to meet individual goals. Your individual case is often handled by a Case Worker or Case Manager.


A client is the individual receiving services. May also be referred to as a patient or consumer.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that focuses on recognizing and addressing negative thought patterns to promote better health, such as increased self-esteem and remission of depression or anxiety. By being aware of your own negative thought patterns, you become better equipped to challenge those negative thoughts and improve your mental health.


A consumer is someone who utilizes resources (such as medication or therapy). Can also be referred to as a patient or a client.


A counselor is a person who has been specifically trained to assist in identifying goals, finding solutions, improve communication and coping skills, strengthen self-esteem, and promote behavior change and optimal mental wellness.


Crisis is a time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger. In mental health, crisis happens when someone is in immediate danger to themselves or someone else.

Crisis Intervention

Crisis Intervention Teams are county-based programs that assist in intervening during a crisis. They are trained professionals who work to de-escalate a situation and stabilize moods, keeping people safe and bringing in necessary resources for intervention.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

DBT is a form of therapy that focuses on behavior. DBT highlights four sets of behavioral skills, which are mindfulness, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and emotional regulation.

Dual Diagnosis

A dual diagnosis is typically when someone struggles both with a mental health challenge (such as depression or anxiety) and also struggles with an addiction (such as alcohol or drugs). Both illnesses need to be treated at the same time for the best recovery outcome.

Early Intervention

Early Intervention is the act of detecting problems or concerns early on. By addressing mental health problems as soon as possible (Stage 1), treatments are easier and shorter. Early intervention is accomplished by knowing and understanding the symptoms of mental health problems and acting on them right away. This can reduce the number of days out of work or school, and less upheaval at work, school, and at home.

Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)

ECT is a procedure, done under general anesthesia, in which small electric currents are passed through the brain, intentionally triggering a brief seizure. ECT seems to cause changes in brain chemistry that can quickly reverse symptoms of certain mental health conditions. ECT often works when other treatments are unsuccessful and when the full course of treatment is completed, but it may not work for everyone. Much of the stigma attached to ECT is based on early treatments in which high doses of electricity were administered without anesthesia, leading to memory loss, fractured bones and other serious side effects. ECT is much safer today. Although ECT may still cause some side effects, it now uses electric currents given in a controlled setting to achieve the most benefit with the fewest possible risks.

General Practitioner (GP)

A general practitioner is also known as your primary care physician or your family doctor. They are doctors that have been trained to provide primary health care to patients of either sex and any age.


Holistic means “the whole person.” Holistic care recognizes that an individual is made up of many components, and true health means that all areas are healthy.

Inpatient Services

Inpatient services are when an individual is required to stay overnight at a facility in order to receive care.


Intervention is the act of recognizing a problem and doing something to stop the problem from becoming worse and to begin the act of recovering.

Mental Health Condition (Including Substance Misuse)

A physical medical condition with cognitive and emotional symptoms.

Mental Health Professional

A mental health professional is someone who works in the field of mental health. Examples include counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, social workers, and case managers to name a few.

Mental Wellness, Mental Health

According to the World Health Organization, mental wellness is defined as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”

Outpatient Services

Outpatient services are provided when an individual does not need to stay overnight. Most forms of counseling and therapy are considered outpatient, where the patient is allowed to return home after the care.

Partial Hospitalization

Partial hospitalization refers to a comprehensive, short-term, intensive, clinical treatment program. With regard to level of treatment, it is a step below inpatient hospitalization, but more concentrated than tradition outpatient care. Clients are generally referred to partial programs when they are experiencing acute psychiatric symptoms that are difficult to manage but that do not require 24 hour care. Individuals attend structured programming throughout the day, three to five days a week and return home in the evenings.


Postvention is the care and treatment after a loss to suicide, largely taking the form of support for the family and friends of the loss. Those who have lost a loved one to suicide are at a greater risk of suicide themselves. Postvention also works to prevent further loss of life by suicide contagion.


Prevention is to stop a problem from ever happening. By focusing on health and wellness, many mental health problems can be prevented before they even begin.

Primary Care Physician (PCP)

Your primary care physician is also known as your family doctor or general practitioner. They are doctors that have been trained to provide primary health care to patients of either sex and any age.


A psychiatrist is a mental health professional that specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health problems. Psychiatrists are medically licensed professionals and are able to prescribe and monitor medications.


A psychologist is a doctor-trained professional that conducts research, performs testing, and evaluates and treats a full range of emotional and psychological challenges. Some state laws permit a psychologist to prescribe medications and other state laws do not.

Screening Tools

A screening tool is a test or quiz that helps to identify symptoms of a mental health problem. Screening tools are good first steps to identify problematic behavior or thinking, and the results of a screening tool should be discussed with a medical professional.


Stigma is the unwarranted and incorrect stereotype of mental health problems. Stigma happens when we treat individuals with physical illnesses differently than we treat those with mental illnesses.


A therapist is a mental health professional that offers different forms of therapy. They may be skilled in one particular type of therapy (such as CBT or DBT), but they may also offer an array of services. State licensure is required to practice therapies in most states.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)

TMS is a noninvasive procedure that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain to improve symptoms of depression. TMS is typically used when other depression treatments haven’t been effective.
This treatment for depression involves delivering repetitive magnetic pulses, so it’s called repetitive TMS or rTMS.