Effective Mental Health Interventions
Updated: May 23, 2022
This is a list of well-researched and effective interventions (Evidence-based best-practices) in the mental health field.
*This is not professional therapy advice. I am presenting a brief outline of helpful psychological interventions solely for educational purposes.
1. Emotional health
Intervention: Mood log, Feelings Journal, Emotions Checklist
Instructions: The goal of this exercise is to identify and process your emotions in healthy ways. Get a journal, notebook, or digitally start a Notes or Word document.
a. Make a list of emotions you’ve had. Getting a feelings wheel, or Emotions vocabulary word list helps with this first step.
b. Rate the intensity of each emotion. (1-10, 10 being the highest, 1 being the lowest).
c. Write out the situation of each emotion. What happened? Who was involved?
d. Write down your strongest thought related to emotion. E.G., “I am a failure!”, “I hate this!”
e. Write down a desire connected to each emotion. E.G., “I wanted things to work out.”
f. Write down how you expressed each emotion. E.G., “I cried. I cursed. I was rude. I zoned out.”
g. Write down a coping action for each emotion when you feel that emotion again in the future. E.G., “Take a deep breath, talk to a friend, remove yourself from the situation, be assertive, pause and think before you speak.”
2. Healthy thought life
Intervention: Thought record, Meta-cognition (Thinking about your thinking)
Instructions: The goal of this exercise is to have rational, logical thought processes. Specifically, it aims to address negative thought patterns. On a sheet of paper or digital word doc/notepad.
a. Write about a difficult situation: What happened?
b. Write out your train of thoughts.
c. Write down evidence that supports your thought.
d. Write down counter-evidence, see your situation from a different perspective.
e. Write a revised thought reframing your situation.
3. Desire drive, Goal-orientated
Intervention: Core desires, Goal setting
Instruction: The goal of this exercise is to connect with your desires, and to be motivated by what you want. Set aside some time to connect with and organize your desires, drive, motivations, needs/wants:
a. Make a list of your desires. What do you want? What do you want to accomplish?
b. Prioritize your list. Arrange your desires in order in terms of what is most important.
c. Write down one step you can take towards each of your desires. When will you do it? How you can do it.
d. Write out all the steps, including a timeline for each step, to pursue your desires.
4. Self-awareness, Self-identity
Intervention: Internal mapping
Instruction: The goal of this exercise is to take the time to know who you are accurately and clearly. Project your self-perception of yourself onto a sheet of paper.
a. Write your name on a sheet of paper.
b. Map out your identity. Write/draw all the roles you play. E.G., husband, parent, sibling, child, relatives, community member, work/professional life, social groups, friends, hobbies/interest activities, escapes/leisure activities, things you do on your own time. Also write down parts/aspects of you who are: personality, beliefs, values/ethic, experiences, talents/abilities.
c. We are dynamic in our identity and we can’t be everything all at the same time, so draw out how you transition between roles. Draw out how you relate between different parts of yourself.
Intervention: Schedule self-care activities.
Instruction: The goal of this exercise is to be intentional and organize your self-care activities.
a. Make a list of activities you do to relax. Be sure to balance your activities between various categories of your life: E.g., social, spiritual, physical, hobbies, creativity, intellectual.
b. Schedule when and where you will do each activity each week.
6. Effective coping skills
Intervention: Coping/Distress tolerance skills training
Instruction: The goal of this exercise is to develop the ability to de-escalate when you get distressed. Learn and practice skills to cope effectively when things don’t go your way.
a. Make a list of coping skills: E.G., Focus on breathing for five minutes, positive self-talk, physical stretching, listen to music, take a walk, art project, play with a pet, leave the room, count, call a friend, pray, read.
b. Write down a coping skill to practice each day.
7. Effective stress management
Intervention: Stress management skills training
Instruction: The goal of this exercise is to manage your stress proactively.
a. Write down what your current stressors are.
b. Write down what you can do to address each stressor.
c. Write down activities you can do to destress (activate Self-Care).
8. Organizational and Productivity skills
Intervention: Task and time management skills, Executive Functioning skills training
Instruction: The goal of this exercise is to learn and implement strategies to manage your life productively.
a. Write out your daily routines: When you wake up, each meal, your work/school day, after school/work routine, bedtime routines.
b. Schedule a time to make a list of daily tasks. Work on your task list and check off each task as you complete it.
c. Prioritize your tasks: Decide which tasks are the most important. Categories may include: Urgent, priority, can wait/postpone, things to do during my free time.
d. Initiate. Write down the first step to start each task. Focus your energy to start that first step.
e. Remove distractions. Turn off devices, remove your phone.
f. Organize materials: Get 3 boxes/bags labeled: Keep, throw away, donate. Purge rooms and closets throughout your house.
g. Organize tech: Turn off notifications. “Select all” in your email inbox and click “archive” (or delete).
h. Review and evaluate. Take time each day or week to review how you did with organizing and completing tasks. Troubleshoot problems you are having.
9. Health relationships
Intervention: Social skills training.
Instruction: The goal of this exercise is to learn and practice skills to know how to meet new people and build healthy relationships.
a. Make a list of people in your life.
b. Write down one step you can take to connect with each person.
c. Make a list of questions to ask your friend. Schedule a time to meet with a friend and ask them questions.
d. Resolve conflicts in relationships. When you have a conflict, ask your friend to talk. Listen to each other’s perspective. Define the problem/conflict. Discuss possible solutions. Agree to a resolution.
e. Active listening: Ask questions, summarize, mirror what the person says.
f. “I statements”. Instead of starting sentences with “You…” (which can be blaming, attacking, assuming), start sentences with, (I think, I am, I want, I feel).
g. Practice introducing yourself to strangers. Think about what you will say, what you want people to know about you.
h. Research social groups to join. Sign up for a group. Check out the group. 10. Living with contentment
Intervention: Gratitude exercise
Instruction: Write down a list of 5 things you are thankful for every day.
A note on interventions/skills: Research has shown, and from my clinical experience have discovered that learning intervention skills is only a small part of the effectiveness of counseling. What makes counseling effective is: the relationship between you and your therapist, your therapist providing you with hope that things will get better, and your external circumstances changing.
The point is: Don’t put so much pressure on yourself to have the right intervention skills perfectly. It would be wise to invest in meaningful relationships, foster a hope-filled worldview, and the ability to navigate all the complexities of life.