A standard dictionary defines intervention as an influencing force or act that occurs in order to modify a given state of affairs.  In the context of mental/behavioral health, an intervention may be any outside process that has the effect of modifying an individual’s behavior, cognition, or emotional state.  For example, a person experiencing symptoms of stress may find a variety of interventions effective in bringing relief.  An activity or a combination of activities such as deep breathing, exercise, talking with a friend, a therapist or counselor, taking a prescribed anti-anxiety medication, practicing mindfulness or yoga, are interventions designed to modify or change and potentially identify the causes of stress-related discomfort.


In 1999, the Report of the Surgeon General on Mental Health stated, one in five Americans in a given year will experience mental/behavioral health difficulties of sufficient magnitude and discomfort too which these individuals may benefit from some form of therapeutic intervention.  Unfortunately, only a small number of individuals seek help.  The report also noted there are a range of treatment interventions that exist for even the most serious mental disorders.

There is no one-size-fits-all-interventions for mental/behavioral health disorders.  For individuals who overcome the barriers of stigma, discrimination, and limited access, there is a broad variety of helpful interventions from which to choose.

Types of Interventions


Often called talk therapy, psychotherapy is when an individual, family, couple or group sits down and talks with a therapist or other mental health professional.  Psychotherapy helps individuals learn about their moods, thoughts, behaviors and how all three influence their lives.  It also provides a way to help restructure thinking and responses to stress and other conditions.


Psychoeducation teaches individuals about how their thinking and responses are connected.  This type of intervention promotes pro-social learning skills and offers information on how to receive further treatment.  It also helps family and friends by providing education focused on coping strategies, problem-solving skills and how to recognize the signs of relapse.  Family psychoeducation can often help ease tensions at home.

Self-help and Support Groups

Self-help and support groups can help address feelings of isolation and help people gain insight into their mental/behavioral health condition. Members of support groups may share frustrations, successes, referrals for specialists, where to find the best community resources and tips on what works best when trying to recover. They also form friendships with other members of the group and help each other on the road to recovery. As with psychoeducation, families and friends may also benefit from support groups of their own.

Psychosocial Rehabilitation

Psychosocial rehabilitation helps people develop the social, emotional and intellectual skills they need in order to live happily with the smallest amount of professional assistance they can manage. Psychosocial rehabilitation uses two strategies for intervention: learning coping skills so that they are more successful handling a stressful environment and developing resources that reduce future stressors.

Treatments and resources vary from case to case but can include medication management, psychological support, family counseling, vocational and independent living training, housing, job coaching, educational aide and social support.

Assertive Community Treatment (ACT)

Assertive community treatment (ACT) is a team-based treatment model that provides multidisciplinary, flexible treatment and support to people with mental illness 24/7. ACT is based around the idea that people receive better care when their mental/behavioral health care providers work together. ACT team members help the person address every aspect of their life, whether it be medication, therapy, social support, employment or housing.

ACT is mostly used for people who have transferred out of an inpatient setting but would benefit from a similar level of care and having the comfort of living a more independent life than would be possible with inpatient care.

Supported Employment

Work can be an essential step on the path to wellbeing and recovery, but challenges that come with mental/behavioral issues can make it more difficult. There are programs, however, are designed specifically to help with work readiness, searching for jobs and providing support in the workplace.

Vocational Rehabilitation (VR)

VR provides career counseling and job search assistance for people with disabilities, including mental/behavioral issues.  A VR program’s structure may vary from state to state. To learn more about your specific state program, visit your state’s VR agency.

Individual Placement and Support (IPS) Supported Employment

IPS programs are evidence-based programs that help people with mental/behavioral problems to locate jobs that match their individual strengths and interests. Once an individual locates a job, IPS programs provide continuous support to help the person succeed in the workplace. IPS Supported Employment teams include employment specialists, health care providers and the individual with mental illness. If the individual agrees, family members or a significant other may be part of the team.

 Case Management

A case manager has knowledge of local medical facilities, housing opportunities, employment programs and social support networks. He or she is also familiar with many payment options, including local, state and federal assistance programs. This person can serve an important role in helping you or your family member get the best treatment possible.


A common question about interventions concerns sources of help or further information. Many communities have a local hotline number that provides referrals and resources, or a mental health association that can direct callers to appropriate clinics, agencies, or groups. Helping resources may include the following:

  • A community mental health center, may be a part of the state’s department of mental health.
  • Local mental health organizations with which the reader may be familiar.
  • Family physicians.
  • Clergy or spiritual counselors.
  • Family service agencies, including charities and family or social services sponsored by various churches, synagogues, or other religious groups.
  • High school or college guidance counselors.
  • Marriage and family counselors.
  • Child guidance counselors.
  • Accredited psychiatric hospitals.
  • Hotlines, crisis centers, and emergency rooms.

There are several categories of mental health professionals who have been specially trained to provide a range of interventions to relieve suffering, treat specific symptoms, or improve overall mental health. Competent professionals are licensed or certified by a particular specialty board or state licensing body. Their credentials imply a certain level of education, training, experience, and subscription to a code of ethics.

Community Mental Health

Community Mental Health utilizes psychosocial interventions that include social and vocational training aimed to provide support, education and guidance to individuals and their families.  Psychosocial interventions are an effective way to improve the quality of life for individuals and their families.  They can lead to fewer hospitalizations and less difficulties at home, at school and at work.  Community Mental Health seeks to become partnered with probation and other health and human services agencies to provide individuals and families with a team of professionals to support their efforts.

Community Mental Health utilizes these types of Psychosocial Interventions

  • Psychoeducation
  • Self-help and Support Groups
  • Psychosocial Rehabilitation
  • Supported Employment

Psychosocial Educational courses

Community Mental Health will post educational courses on its calendar as well as information on blog.

 – See more at:



American Psychological Association. 750 First Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002. (800) 374-2721. <> .

National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI). Colonial Place Three, 2107 Wilson Blvd., Suite 300, Arlington, VA 22201. <> .

National Mental Health Association. 1021 Prince St., Alexandria, VA 22314. <> .

National Mental Health Consumers’ Self-Help Clearinghouse. 1211 Chestnut St, Suite 1207, Philadelphia, PA 19107. <> .


Annette McClure, MA