Research shows psychological treatments are effective in managing many common mental health disorders. Some treatments are at least as successful as medication in treating the most prevalent conditions, such as depression and anxiety.

Around one in five Australians develop common disorders and they have limited access to psychological treatments. These approaches are based on changing behaviour without medication. In comparison, the use of medication, such as anti-depressants, is growing rapidly, with prescriptions doubling between1994 and 2000. Research into medication has also generally received far more funding than studies of psychological approaches.

The most prevalent adult mental health conditions are depression, anxiety, and substance abuse, which affect around 18 per cent of adults. A similar percentage of children and adolescents develop anxiety, depression and disruptive behaviour.

A review of current research shows that a range of well-defined psychological treatments:

  • are effective at treating the most common mental health conditions
  • are effective in treating most anxiety and depression disorders
  • are the treatment of choice for most childhood problems
  • tend to be more effective than medication over the long term, because people receiving medication only are more likely to relapse after they stop taking it
  • are viable treatments, in terms of both their effectiveness and costs.