Prescriptive vs Descriptive: Understanding Mental Health in Different Ways

Home | Prescriptive vs Descriptive: Understanding Mental Health in Different Ways

When we think about mental health treatment, the word “prescription” may come to mind. Doctors often prescribe antidepressants, anti-anxiety medication, and other medications to help stabilize a patient’s mental health. This is called a “prescriptive approach,” one that involves diagnosis, medication, and not much else.

Take prescription antidepressants as an example. According to Scientific American, the United States is seeing a noticeable rise in doctors relying on “all-purpose” anti-depressants to diagnose an array of mental health issues that they’re not designed for.

There is much debate over whether this approach is moral, scientifically sound, or effective. While the right medication at the right time can do wonders for someone suffering from a mental health disorder, medication is best when combined with a more “descriptive approach” – one that considers the context of the disorder, including the patient’s home environment, stress level, past experiences, and more.

Applying the Terminology to Mental Health and Recovery

In terms of substance use disorder recovery, a strictly prescriptive approach is considered by most to be ineffective in the long term. A more descriptive approach to recovery incorporates treatments and interventions such as group therapy, individual therapy, residential treatment, and mindfulness.

At St. Gregory Recovery Center, we steer away from purely prescriptive models of recovery. Why? Because clinical evidence suggests that a hybrid approach of medication and cognitive behavioral therapy is highly effective in treating addiction.

That’s why we believe in a transtheoretical model of change when it comes to our clients’ experience. Like the name suggests, we like to blend and cross over into different theories to treat addiction. The process looks like this:

  • Phase 1: Social Liberation – recognizing that it’s possible to get sober and that past experiences with addiction are forgivable
  • Phase 2: Helping Relationships – realizing that healthy people can help someone change for the better
  • Phase 3: Self-Reevaluation – learning to acknowledge and believe in personal worth
  • Phase 4: Consciousness-Raising – becoming conscious of reasons for change and asking how change is possible
  • Phase 5: Commitment – choosing to change and persisting in that commitment
  • Phase 6: Emotional Arousal – allowing an emotional response to ignite change
  • Phase 7: Countering – learning to substitute new behaviors and thoughts for old, toxic ones
  • Phase 8: Stimulus Control (aka Environmental Control) – learning to reduce the access to old behaviors and triggers that can cause relapse
  • Phase 9: Reinforcement Management – seeing how healthy rewards can become a part of life that incentivizes sobriety

The aim here is to rewire the brain, develop emotional awareness and healthy responses to emotions, and train people to be independent. We understand the importance of medication in the fight against substance abuse, especially when medication-assisted treatment is needed to reach successful sobriety. But we value the individual’s unique journey as they strengthen their resilience and connections with others to help sustain sobriety. Call our Iowa facility today to find out more about how we tackle substance use disorder.

Researching Iowa addiction specialists? To learn more about programs offered at St. Gregory Recovery Center, call and speak with someone today, at (888) 778-5833.

Our graduates tell their stories…

When first arriving at St. Gregory I had mixed feelings about the health and wellness workouts. I came in at 136 lbs and didn’t think it was possible to reach...
- Chris
The good life is not merely a life free from addictions, physical and/or psychological—addictions that usually are the outward manifestations of deeper problems—but a life lived in harmonious balance, free...
- Matt
I came to St. Gregory’s at my all-time worst—physically, emotionally, and mentally. Having gone through a bad rehab experience once before, I had been very reluctant in succumbing to that...
- CJ
No matter where I start my thought process when reflecting upon my time before, during and after St. Gregory’s, I always seem to end up in the same place in...
- Kaele


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