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The Medical Model versus the Wellness Model for Mental Health

The way that therapy is treated today is COMPLETELY different than what it used to be. It used to be that people who went to therapy were considered crazy or broken or in trouble. As a result, seeking help for mental health was rarely discussed. When it was talked about, it was usually discussed in a negative way.

Luckily, as times have changed, the internet and social media has given us access to more people. This allows us to see just show many people are feeling the same way as us. Mental health issues are more widely discussed and are seen more often in pop culture as well. I’ve seen characters in movies and shows talk about therapy openly. Memes and social media are portraying therapy more often as well.

I love how this tweet sums up the way that mental health counseling is looked at now:

Medical Model of Therapy

The old school way of looking at therapy was very similar to the medical model. For example: You feel symptoms (like a cold for physical health issues), you go to a therapist (you see your doctor), you talk through it (they listen and diagnose you, maybe give you meds). Then, when you feel better, you stop going (until the next time you’re sick or for a yearly check up). While that method of approaching a mental health issue may work for some people, it feels outdated. 

medical stethoscope and mask composed with red foiled chocolate hearts to show difference in types of therapy approaches
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Mental health has been so stigmatized in the past. Many people have only felt comfortable talking about their physical symptoms instead of their mental ones. For instance, if you are dealing with anxiety, you may experience a wide range of physical symptoms that impact your life on a daily basis. These may include a high heart rate, lack of sleep, diet changes, stomach issues, headaches, teeth grinding, picking nails/skin, etc).

For someone struggling with depression, they may have a lot of physical symptoms as well (low energy, sleep issues, trouble with eating too little or too much, etc). People often write off these symptoms as minor stress or something they will get over. While that may be the case for some, those symptoms can be dangerous and have long term effects, personally and physically, if they persist. 

woman doing yoga to cope with her anxiety in Charlotte, NC
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Wellness Model of Therapy

The wellness model is a much healthier way of looking at mental health and therapy. It sees your mental health along the same lines at physical and dental health. You need to check in with your mind and make sure it is being addressed in some way in your life, just like you check in with other medical professionals about your body. Having a therapist to check in with about your feelings and behavior can help you identify the root causes and give you practical tips to manage them. Listening to positive affirmations, journaling, surrounding  yourself with great people, are all ways of addressing your mental health.

woman and man stretching their arms together to decrease anxiety in Virginia
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

Physical Needs and Mental Health Needs

People are consistently encouraged to go to the gym to work on their physical health goals, right? But once they reach their ideal weight/physique goals/finish their workout program, they typically don’t just stop going and expect to keep their progress. Same with any other healthy habit! You have to be consistent and prioritize your needs in every area of your life. Individuals are usually required to have a yearly check up with their doctor for their physical healt. It’s recommended to have 2 dental cleanings a year to maintain great dental hygiene. However, no one really encourages people to work on their mental health, even though it is connected to literally every aspect of your life.

Having a therapist, a great self care routine, or a support group can allow you to meet your mental health needs. It can possibly improve your physical health, relationships, and self esteem in the process. Mental health care should be normalized! Knowing that someone is working on themselves should be seen as a huge asset to who they are as a person.

Therapy session for anxiety in Charlotte, North Carolina
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com

Going to therapy or being on medication for mental health is a positive thing. It shows that you are prioritizing yourself and are actively working on being the best/healthiest version of you as possible. Therapy allows you to grow, build up your identity, work through past negative experiences and achieve goals in your life. It also holds you accountable to yourself and gives you a safe space to process things that may be difficult to talk about with others. 

woman spreading both her arms feeling free after therapy session for anxiety in North Carolina
Photo by Lucas Pezeta on Pexels.com


The wellness model is an amazing way to approach therapy. It takes away the stigma of mental health and normalizes it, just like physical and dental health are considered standard care for everyone. As an online anxiety therapist in North Carolina, I pride myself on treating therapy as a form of self care.

Hopefully you can approach your own mental health care in the same way and develop a routine (meds, therapy, self care, etc) that works for you. You deserve to be able to prioritize your mind and I hope that you do!

Woman meditating to decrease anxiety

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