What are the Elements of a Successful Psychiatric Therapy Programme?

If one were to ask a surgeon what the best approach to dealing with a patient experiencing abdominal pain would be, he or she might suggest a physical examination accompanied by a battery of blood tests, in order to rule out renal stones and an ectopic pregnancy, before proceeding with the appendectomy that he or she first suspected might prove necessary. Unfortunately, when dealing with a patient suffering from a mental illness, even a quick differential diagnosis is unlikely, and certainly the psychiatrist has nothing as straightforward as a simple surgical procedure with which to attempt some form of treatment.

While there is much that is yet to be revealed about the inner workings of the human mind, psychiatric therapy programmes have progressed almost beyond measure since the days when all mental illness was thought to be the result of devil possession and its treatment more often the responsibility of a priest, rather than of the equally unenlightened doctors of that age. Even when such beliefs were abandoned, the medical fraternity remained largely ignorant regarding the nature of disorders of the mind and, for several centuries, confinement, often in extremely unpleasant conditions, remained the only option offered by doctors for those suffering from a mental illness.

Enlightenment was a long time coming and, despite the fact that hospitals for the mentally ill were introduced in several Islamic countries during the 8th century, the science of psychiatry did not begin to develop for a further millennium. At that time, however, physicians in Persia had already begun to classify neurotic disorders into fear, anxiety, anger, aggression, depression and obsession, and even to attempt a form of cognitive therapy. That said, it was a further two centuries before doctors in the western world began to unravel some of the biological origins of mental illness and to recognise its various forms.

Only with the dawn of the 20th century was anything that begins to resemble a modern psychiatric therapy programme introduced. This so-called ???talk therapy??? was based on the work of Sigmund Freud and his theory of psychoanalysis. His theory gained immediate popularity because it meant that, for the first time, mentally ill patients could undergo treatment in a doctor???s consulting room, rather than in an asylum, as had been the case until then.

It eventually became clear, however, that psychoanalysis alone was failing to address the biological roots of certain types of mental illnesses and was not, after all, the hoped-for panacea. Further research in this field led to the discovery of chemical agents with the ability to modify moods and behaviour. By the ???70s, the new science of psychopharmacology saw psychoanalysis taking a more of a backseat role and being applied primarily for the treatment of psycho-social disorders.

Since then, there have been many differing theories regarding the origins and treatment of mental illness, some widely accepted within the profession and others less so. One area in which consensus has been reached, however, is that, if they are to be as effective as possible, psychiatric therapy programmes should be designed to address the needs of patients on a more holistic basis. A mental illness has both cause and effect, and it is therefore not sufficient for a therapist to focus solely on treating its symptoms. The so-called integrative approach has now been adopted by most of the leading authorities in the field and it is a step that is now widely acknowledged as contributing to a significant reduction in patient recovery times.

In simple terms, under this new approach, the role of the psychiatric hospital and the various therapy programmes it provides has been broadened to include the social, physical and spiritual deficits displayed by the patient, and not just the particular condition that may have resulted from or led to such deficits. Identifying these shortfalls and assisting the patient to overcome them is as essential a part of his or her recovery and re-integration into society, as treating the particular psychosis. In addition to counselling on an individual and group basis together with a healthy diet, a range of interesting activities and exercise, and an attractive, peaceful and safe environment all contribute to the sense of wellbeing that is so important to the recovery process.

Ticking all of these important boxes, the Beethoven Recovery Centre conducts individualised, integrative psychiatric therapy and addiction rehabilitation programmes in a tranquil setting adjacent to the Magaliesberg Mountain Range and the Hartbeespoort Dam.