• Question: Are there any techniques that were used in the past to treat mental health that you think should still be used now?

    Asked by Jen to Rob, Olly, Nicola, Jasmin, Dennis, Caroline on 12 Jun 2019.
    • Photo: Jasmin Moon

      Jasmin Moon answered on 12 Jun 2019:


      On the whole, no. Mental health was very misunderstood in the past and the treatments were usually cruel and ineffective, for example they used to drill a hole in someone’s skull because they thought that it would release a ‘demon’!
      However you might be interested to know that a type of therapy where electric currents are sent through the brain (officially called electroconvulsive therapy) is still used occasionally to treat very severe depression and can actually be very effective for some people. It can cause some memory loss though, so people have to think very carefully about whether to go ahead with the procedure.

    • Photo: Dennis Relojo-Howell

      Dennis Relojo-Howell answered on 12 Jun 2019:


      Introspection. This was introduced by Wundt. Introspection is basically self-reflection. Before we seek counselling or any professional help, we often resort to reflecting about ourselves.

    • Photo: Robert Dempsey

      Robert Dempsey answered on 12 Jun 2019: last edited 14 Jun 2019 8:07 am


      Good question! There’s a lot of techniques which we’d hope not to see return (e.g. frontal lobotomies). I believe in evidence-based medicine – so I hope that therapies for common mental health issues are based on scientific research and evidence (so we know how and why a particular treatment/therapy works) and that we avoid ‘quack therapies’ which don’t make things better or even make things worse. I can’t think of any techniques that need to come back as things which work have tended to stick around, even basic counselling has its benefits for many people.

    • Photo: Nicola Johnstone

      Nicola Johnstone answered on 13 Jun 2019:


      Rob makes a really good point and I agree, evidence based approaches are essential and these weren’t often practised in the past!

    • Photo: Caroline Brett

      Caroline Brett answered on 13 Jun 2019:


      I’m with Rob on this one. The study of mental health has come so far in the last 100 years that any treatment or technique that was used in the past and isn’t used today is likely to either have no evidence for it, or – in many cases – be harmful. Any treatment still used should, in theory, have a sound evidence base for it (the exception being new treatments which have only just been developed)

    • Photo: Oliver Clabburn

      Oliver Clabburn answered on 14 Jun 2019:


      Rob has hit the nail on the head! Treatments which have been found to not work, will tend to fade away (thankfully! Labotomies?! No thanks!) Our approaches to treat MH now are based on robust evidence and thorough research.

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