What is Psychological Health?
Find out the different facets of psychological health and the services available to support you.
Life’s unique challenges undoubtedly affect us all differently. Maybe you’re going to college and struggling with leaving home for the first time. Perhaps you went through a tough time in life and used alcohol to numb the pain. Or, you dealt with family trauma as a child that led to anxious feelings and intrusive thoughts as an adult.
Whether you’re going through life transitions, struggling with addiction, or just trying to quiet down your mind, no matter where you are in your mental health journey, thank you for being here. Talking about your psychological health can sometimes be as difficult as dealing with the emotions and behaviors that may accompany psychological health concerns. In this article, we hope to not only give you information about how to better understand your psychological health and services that you may consider utilizing but to also validate your journey. Let’s get started.
What Is Psychological Health?
The field of psychological health focuses on emotional, cognitive, behavioral, and social well-being. Like physical health, psychological health is an integral part of our overall holistic wellness. Healthy psychological well-being is not just the absence of signs of mental health issues or a diagnosis of a mental health disorder, but the presence of balanced emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. When our psychological state is unbalanced, we may have trouble with indecisiveness, managing our emotions, controlling our behaviors, interacting with others, and handling stress and other challenges (Galderisi et al., 2015).
Topics in Psychological Health
Because psychological health is multifaceted, several topics exist within the field. Here is a list of some issues that are covered under the umbrella term ‘psychological health’ (World Health Organization, 2004).
Depressive Moods & Major Depression Disorder
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Intimate Partner Violence
Suicide and Suicidal Ideation
Grief and Bereavement
Substance Abuse and Addiction
School Concerns (e.g., bullying)
Racism and Racial Battle Fatigue
Body Dysmorphia and Body Image
Athlete’s Health and Injury
The takeaway here is that psychological health can be affected in a myriad of ways, whether it’s mental health concerns, physical health issues, life changes, personal development, community concerns, and/or political and social justice issues. This is the reason why a plethora of different professionals exist to support you through different threats to your psychological health.
Psychological Health Services and Professionals
Humans are complex creatures—each of us with our niche life experiences, realities, and struggles. Just as treatment services for physical health concerns remain aplenty, psychological health services are broad too.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of examples of various services and types of professionals working in mental health.
Psychotherapy. Therapists who practice psychotherapy treat mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, addiction, and personality disorders. However, these professionals do not only help their clients manage diagnosed conditions, but can also support individuals going through life changes such as moving, going to college, getting married, stressful situations, grief and bereavement, and conflict resolution. Psychotherapists tend to use various forms of talk therapy and science-based treatment options such as cognitive-behavioral therapy. Different types of psychotherapists include licensed mental health counselors, social workers, counseling psychologists, and clinical psychologists (Lambert, Bergin, & Garfield, 1994).
Psychiatry. While psychotherapists practice a form of counseling, psychiatrists help support various mental health conditions through medication. Several mental health concerns such as depression, panic disorder, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), schizophrenia, substance abuse, and bipolar disorder often use both counseling and medication methods to mitigate symptoms. Psychotherapists most often have their formal clinical and research education in master’s and PhD programs, while psychiatrists attend medical school (Kleinman, 2008).
Marriage and Family Therapy. Similar to psychotherapists, practitioners of marriage and family therapy use counseling primarily for working with people who may be dealing with family issues (e.g., tense parent-child dynamics), spousal concerns (e.g., poor communication), and overall relationship changes (e.g., marriage or divorce). Therapy is often offered for individuals as well as for couples and families (Broderick & Schrader, 1991).
Social Work. Social workers have some commonalities with psychotherapists in their training. However, a big component of social work also includes advocacy of psychological health and social concerns. When they are not providing therapy to their client, many social workers may also be involved with reducing mental health stigma, advocating for psychological health policy changes (e.g., more access to services in lower income communities), and promoting social, cultural, and economic civil rights (Adams, 2003).
School Psychology. School psychologists support the psychological health of students. These practitioners are often available in school settings as early as preschool to assist students with developmental concerns, learning challenges, and behavioral issues. Their goal is to not only support mental health, but improve student-teacher dynamics and promote academic achievement for all types of student learners (Fagan & Wise, 2000).
Additional Services. Other types of psychological health services that may be available include substance abuse counselors, suicide prevention hotlines, crisis counselors, group therapy, peer educators and specialists, and telehealth or mobile apps for therapy.
Let’s recap. In this article, we defined what psychological health is, which factors can impact your mental well-being, the different topics the umbrella of psychological health covers, and various services and professionals that may be available to help you work through any challenges. Hopefully, this was useful as you continue learning how to support yourself on your mental health journey.
Adams, R. (2003). Social work and empowerment.
Broderick, C. B., & Schrader, S. S. (1991). The history of professional marriage and family therapy. Handbook of family therapy, 2, 3-40.
Fagan, T. K., & Wise, P. S. (2000). School psychology: Past, present, and future. NASP Publications, 4340 East West Highway, Suite 402, Bethesda, MD 20814.
Galderisi, S., Heinz, A., Kastrup, M., Beezhold, J., & Sartorius, N. (2015). Toward a new definition of mental health. World psychiatry, 14(2), 231.
Kleinman, A. (2008). Rethinking psychiatry. Simon and Schuster.
Lambert, M. J., Bergin, A. E., & Garfield, S. L. (1994). The effectiveness of psychotherapy. Encyclopedia of psychotherapy, 1, 709-714.
World Health Organization. (2004). Promoting mental health: Concepts, emerging evidence, practice: Summary report. World Health Organization.