Mental Health Treatment for Teens: How Has It Changed Over Time?

Mental Health Treatment for Teens: How Has It Changed Over Time?

The field of mental health, as well as mental health treatment, is continuously evolving. Understanding how far mental health treatment has come requires looking back on history and seeing where treatment first began. 

When It All Began: The Colonial Era - 1900s

Mental illness has always been a topic of discussion, although it took several centuries for members of society to understand the nature of mental health. In colonial America, caring for individuals with mental illnesses or disabilities was a shared responsibility among town members. Each town provided farm shelters to support those in need, although these shelters grouped individuals with mental illness, criminals, and poor people. 

Many people argued that poor farms would create better living and work conditions for these individuals, but these places were unkept and quickly became overcrowded. Families struggled to care for their relatives with mental illness due to financial constraints and could not care for their loved ones privately because most were considered “insane.”

Living conditions among these populations continued to worsen over the years. Soon, the government was forced to take responsibility for these populations by moving them to the countryside and into institutions and asylums thought to fit their needs. Individuals living with mental illness were often sent to “insane” asylums. With this, the government neglected to understand that mental health has multiple and complicated facets. 

Evolving Treatment: The 20th Century

This new era brought new forms of addressing mental health and treatment. Still, most of these introduced treatment methods aimed to fix societal perceptions of mental health instead of actually helping those that struggle with a mental illness. 

Treatment methods included:

  • Psychotherapy
  • Electroshock (ECT)
  • Pharmaceutical drugs like antipsychotic drugs and other medications
  • Psychosurgery

Although not wholly evolved, this time period did make strides at improving education about mental health. Advocates like Dorothea Dix spent their lives improving treatment for those who struggled with mental illness. Towards the end of the 20th century, the introduction of new mental health programs aimed to address case-by-case needs of treatment instead of thinking that one specific treatment can cure all cases. 

Addressing How Modern Mental Health Treatment Came to Be

The first approaches for mental health treatment involved torture and general disregard for the subjectivity of mental illness. After decades of advocation for those who suffer and the development of numerous treatment therapy modalities, mental health awareness continues to blossom. 

Mental health treatments now handle mental illness effectively, knowledgeably, and morally compared to the past. There are now thousands of mental health and substance use treatment centers across the United States, and each offers something special and unique about approaching mental health healing and recovery. 

Combination of Traditional and Holistic Approaches

Most treatment approaches now utilize a combination of traditional approaches to therapy, such as one of the many forms of psychotherapy, and holistic approaches, such as mindfulness meditation, deep breathing, and even yoga. Thinking back on how mental health treatment began, it is profound that mindfulness is now considered a necessary aspect of self-discovery and healing. 

Although the stigmas of mental illness still surface, it may help to understand that stigmas develop from a place of misunderstanding, lack of knowledge, and lack of awareness. The field of mental health and treatment has inevitably come a long way and continues to evolve with every new year. 

Advances in Teen Treatment for Substance Use

Substance use among adolescents and teens has been an ongoing health problem. Alcohol and drug use among teens poses unique challenges, especially related to biological development and maturity. Treatment initially began the same way mental health treatment did, by sending those that struggle to mental health asylums or correctional institutions. 

Nearing the mid-late 1900s, churches and hospitals started to realize that adolescent drug use differs from adult drug use in many ways, and each would benefit from different treatment approaches. Current advances in substance use disorder for teens highlight individualizing client care through thorough assessments of personal history and drug use. After the assessment, the teen will be referred to one of the following treatment levels:

  • Early intervention services, such as educational programs
  • Outpatient treatment, where a teen engages in weekly treatment that is recommended by mental health professionals
  • Intensive outpatient, where a teen engages in longer and more intense treatment during the day but still live at home
  • Residential/inpatient treatment, where a teen lives in a residential setting and experiences long-term treatment for up to a year
  • Medically managed intensive inpatient, which is recommended for teens that require detox or that experience severe mental health issues that need 24/7 care

Do you ever wonder how mental health treatment came to be? There have been significant advances made since the field of mental health treatment first began. Modern science has learned much about the development of mental illness and the evaluation of treatments for those struggling with mental health and substance use. Mental illness was once treated as taboo, although we now know that nearly 1 in 5 people struggle with mental illness at any given time. Mental illness and substance use are complicated conditions that affect all areas of a person's life. At Clearfork Academy, we understand that mental conditions and substance use problems can feel defeating. We offer specialized care for teens that are looking to experience peace from their addiction or mental health distress. Our programs take into account the modern mind of a teenager in today's day and age. To learn more, call us today at (817) 259-2597.

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