Diverse Treatment Options
Rural communities face unique challenges when addressing mental health, including lack of
accessibility to transportation services, stigma toward mental healthcare, and limited access to
healthy food choices. Mental health treatment is not a one-size-fit-all process. Individuals have
unique needs that should be addressed when implementing mental health programs. Rural communities
will especially need to think of innovative ways to provide various treatment options for their residents.
Incorporating wellness programming should be a priority when implementing mental health programs because
nutrition, exercise, stress
management, and tobacco
cessation play a crucial role in preventing mental health problems and maintaining stability in
individuals with a mental health condition. Additionally, many people with mental health conditions also
physical health problems and chronic conditions, such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes.
The mental health condition may precede the physical health problem, or vice versa. Either way, it is important
to focus on the well-being of the entire patient when treating mental health conditions.
Health Blog discusses the importance of nutrition for mental health by explaining that eating
unhealthy foods, such as refined sugars, can have negative effects on brain functioning, affecting
things like the regulation of insulin and mood disorders.
Exercise is also an important part of wellness and should be considered when implementing mental health programs
in rural areas. In some cases, exercise can lead
to short-term relief and long-term stabilization of mood disorders like anxiety and depression.
Physical activity opportunities can be difficult to access for individuals living in rural areas. However,
because exercise helps improve and alleviate mental health symptoms, it is important for community members to
consider exercise programs
when implementing mental health programs. This may be as simple as daily walking routines.
Technology is important to consider when implementing mental health programs, especially in rural areas. Telehealth programs,
including mobile technology or mHealth,
can be used to increase rural residents' access to mental healthcare, especially when there is a mental health
There are also a growing number of online counseling resources, which may be well-suited for rural residents who
do not have access to transportation or a clinic. With these resources, mental health professionals can provide services for patients via email, video
conferencing, virtual reality, chat technology, or a mixture of these. Given barriers that rural communities
face in accessing technology and online connectivity, these resources may not be accessible for all rural
residents. Additionally, online therapy may not be appropriate for all patients or all types of mental health
Various Types of Therapy
When mental health programs are implemented in rural areas, it is important that various types of therapy are
offered in order to best meet the needs of all rural residents. Given providers shortages in rural areas, not
all of these will be available to all rural residents, however. Some examples of psychotherapy include:
behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Used as a therapy strategy to change unhealthy thinking and behavior patterns
- Mental health providers trained in CBT can equip patients with tools to recognize maladaptive
thinking and behavior patterns and change these patterns in order to improve overall health and
- Techniques may include motivational
interviewing to help people recognize and work toward their goals
- Art therapy
A therapy that incorporates art, creativity, and expression as healing strategies for patients
- Music therapy
This therapy uses music as a tool for healing and processing through: music making, listening,
singing, and dance.
Another lifestyle treatment option is mindfulness
meditation, which can take the form of still meditation or meditation through movement such as yoga. Yoga may
relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression for some individuals.
Prescription medications can be helpful for individuals with a mental health condition. The National Institute
of Mental Health outlines various
examples of prescription medications including antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, stimulants,
and antipsychotics. Medication may come in various forms,
including pills, injections, or patches. Rural areas face barriers in accessing pharmacy services, including
transportation barriers and recent pharmacy closures. Rural areas also have workforce shortages that make it
difficult to access
psychiatrists and other professionals who can prescribe medication and evaluate its usefulness for
individual patients. Choosing the most appropriate prescription should involve assessing the effectiveness,
availability, and affordability of the medication. In rural areas, some barriers to pharmacy access may be
overcome by using mail-order or internet services or by using long-acting medications. However, prescription
medications should only be taken when prescribed by a licensed medical practitioner.
Before implementing mental health programming, rural communities should consider the various ways that they can
address and improve the mental health of their residents and make a plan for implementing a wide range of
Resources to Learn More
The Link Between Food and Mental Health
Outlines how nutrition can impact mental health.
Author(s): Clay, R.A.
Organization(s): American Psychological Association
Citation: APA Monitor on Psychology, 48(8), 26
Highlights the various forms of mental health medications.
Organization(s): National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)