(Photo:Flickr/Cushing Memorial Library and Archives, Texas A&M)

With nearly 50 percent of all Americans suffering from a mental illness at some point in their lifetimes, psychologist Alan Kazdin of Yale University asserts that the country’s mental health care system needs a reboot.

Speaking about his latest study in Perspectives on Psychological Science, Kazdin tells Time magazine that individual therapy is not the right type of therapy for many Americans suffering from mental illness. He proposes the use of evidence-based treatments but acknowledges that these treatments are hard to access and aren’t familiar to many therapists.

“[It is hard to get] evidence-based treatments,” he said. “Among the many reasons is that scientific innovation in any field normally takes a decade or two to filter down to the public. It’s somewhat sad, but normal. Most people practicing who are 50 years old or older weren’t trained in them and they don’t know how.”

Kazdin says the mental health profession’s first priority should be benefitting the public before benefitting itself.

“The first thing we need is the commitment of professionals to really help people,” he said. “We need very different ways of giving treatment. Many of them are out there already. For example, there are online treatments. There’s self-help that could reach millions of people in need, if we did things other than one-to-one New Yorker cartoon psychotherapy. We should have more guidelines [about what to do therapeutically] — that would offend the profession, but benefit the public. I’m proselytizing only because someone has to look at this inertia. Right now in time zones all over country, someone is getting evidence-based treatment, but there are eight or nine other people who aren’t getting anything.”

Read the rest of the interview

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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