Mental health rehabilitation (a brief guide)

Mental health rehabilitation consists of a series of procedures and guidelines that must be carried out in order to obtain the best possible recovery. Below, we will see what it consists of. 

Mental health rehabilitation

In cases of mental health rehabilitation, the objectives are of different types, depending on the needs of the person. Such goals include learning or relearning a useful life skill, getting self-confidence restored, learning how to better cope with life events, and becoming more or less independent, among others. 

Rehabilitate yourself from what? 

Mental health rehabilitation refers to those cases in which a person has been previously diagnosed with a mental disorder and subsequently needs treatment to help him/her recover lost skills or abilities, or learn new tools to help him/her continue his/her life in a more or less stable manner. 

Mental health rehabilitation requires certain special services, care, and tools since it generally refers to those mental health cases in which the consequences of the symptoms are great or have had a significant impact on the person’s life. 

What is rehabilitation?

The term rehabilitation (even outside the context of mental health rehabilitation), refers to any process that seeks to restore a previous ability to incorporate aspects of functionality that had been lost for some reason and that are necessary for proper functioning. It can be an illness of any kind that has the characteristic of leaving significant sequelae. 

Rehabilitation is an issue that is not only addressed within the context of mental health. In fact, some other disciplines also put it into practice frequently. In physical therapy, for example, people who have been undergoing orthopedic treatment have the possibility of regaining some type of mobility or corporal dynamics that was affected by a trauma or other illness. 

What do mental health rehabilitation services consist of?

First of all, it is important to mention that in mental health rehabilitation services, different professionals come into play, who have different roles within the organization. Among them are: psychiatrists, nurses, occupational therapists, psychologists, and social workers. 

From each of the above areas, different tasks and functions are performed, all focused on the correct restoration of mental health and those functions or abilities that were lost or affected as a result of long-term mental illness. 

What the mental health rehabilitation service tries to do is to help people who still find it difficult to return to their normal lives or interact with other people, just as they did in the moments before the illness. This help means that everything possible will be done to help the person live as independently and as freely as possible. 

Sometimes difficulties with long-term mental illness can mean that people can continue to live at home with their families but need temporary support to complete their recovery. In this case, there are outpatient services that allow people to go to a specialized service a few hours each week and find the support and tools they need. 

In all these services people will be helped to recover their optimal level of functioning, while accepting that difficulties may still exist, given the intensity of the symptoms that were recently present and that have already decreased in severity. 

Strategic Mental Health also provides with rehabilitation services to those in need.

How do you know who needs mental health rehabilitation? 

Generally, the mental disorders that most need further assistance in rehabilitation are schizophrenia (any subtype), schizoaffective disorder, and bipolar affective disorder. Difficulties that may occur in some of the patients suffering from these diseases (which are usually few in number) include the following: 

  • Problems with planning and/or organizing activities of daily living, such as school or work It is common for these types of difficulties to exist, and many people can benefit from having tools to help them recover the functions they have lost or the habits they are used to. 
  • On the other hand, there may still be some symptoms (for example, people with schizophrenia or another disorder in the same group may still have hallucinations, making it difficult to communicate with others), and it may help to learn how to manage them, to “live with them” so that they don’t interfere too significantly with daily life. 
  • Other difficulties may be due to the fact that the person, given the mental disorder and the way it has affected him or her, is particularly vulnerable and may become abused or exploited by others. In this case, you may also be able to get help so that the risk of any of these situations can be reduced. 
  • Another difficulty that may exist is for people to engage in behaviors that others perceive as threatening or difficult to understand (which could lead to legal problems). In these cases, the aim is to improve the regulation of behavior so that it is actually possible to return to the contexts where people lived before. 
  • Another difficulty that may be present is the risk of falling into the use of harmful substances or substances not allowed by law, as well as alcohol or other types of drugs. 

These difficulties may arise for different reasons. That is to say, despite having received treatment for mental illness, there are still some after-effects that continue to generate difficulties. These difficulties may appear for different reasons: 

  • It is possible that the medication that has been prescribed is not working well enough in a specific case, and therefore the symptoms are not completely controlled. It is possible, on the other hand, that the disease affects the ability to concentrate on a task, that it affects motivation or the ability to organize the activities of daily life. 
  • In addition, there is a possibility that, in addition to suffering from one of the diseases mentioned at the beginning, the person may have a simultaneous diagnosis of depression and/or anxiety, which further complicates the management of their symptoms. 

Finally, in addition to all of the above, social stigma and discrimination become an additional burden for many people with mental illness. In addition to all the difficulties they face, they experience rejection and mistreatment by others. 

Given the above, managing all these difficulties effectively is a task that may require additional help, in this case, from a group of professionals specialized in different dimensions of life. 

The objectives of mental health rehabilitation 

As seen in the previous sections, what mental health rehabilitation seeks is a change in different aspects, including those mentioned below. 

The person may need to learn new skills or relearn those they forgot or lost practice in. For example, a person diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder may need to learn effective emotional regulation strategies, since those he or she has used all his or her life have proven ineffective. 

Regaining self-confidence could be another goal of mental health rehabilitation. That is, because of the mental illness and its symptoms, the difficulties that have been experienced, and the social stigma, it is likely that the person has decreased confidence in himself and his abilities, so help in this regard will be crucial to regaining overall functionality. 

On the other hand, within the objectives of mental health rehabilitation, there may be specific aspects of life for which specific plans need to be developed so that they can be achieved. 

Among such aspects may be the fact of getting a flat of one’s own, since one wants to live independently and autonomously, getting a job and strengthening the career or trade one has chosen, or building (or strengthening) family relationships. There are also professionals who can help you with this type of objective. 

Feeling independent and comfortable with one’s life is another aspect that can be difficult to achieve for people who have suffered from a severe mental illness, so they need help to achieve it. 

Mental health rehabilitation: inpatient alternative

Another option in mental health rehabilitation is that the person needs, according to the evaluation made by a group of professionals, to stay in a specialized unit for this purpose. The length of the stay will depend on how the person evolves during his stay, and above all on the needs he presents. 

Some people will need to stay for one or two weeks and others may need to stay in the unit for a month or longer to obtain the best results in mental health rehabilitation. 

An essential factor to keep in mind in these cases is that the goal is for the person to stay in the unit as little as possible, within the limits of their needs, as this environment can become highly stressful and become a factor that worsens the patient’s situation if it is not what they need. 


Mental health rehabilitation refers to all those services and tools that allow a person who has suffered a severe mental illness to return to a previous level of functioning or learn skills necessary to continue their life to the best of their ability. Common serve mental illness includes schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. 

Mental health rehabilitation can be done in several ways. The person may only go to outpatient services while living at home with family members or loved ones. On the other hand, the person may need to be hospitalized for a certain period of time, and as he or she improves, the time needed to return home will decrease. 

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about mental health rehabilitation

What is mental health rehabilitation?

Mental health rehabilitation refers to those cases in which a person has been previously diagnosed with a mental disorder, and subsequently needs treatment to help him/her recover lost skills or abilities, or learn new tools to help him/her continue his/her life in a more or less stable way

What is a rehabilitation service?

A rehabilitation service is one that provides services dedicated to helping people who need it to regain some level of function that they lost due to illness. Usually, this requires learning new skills or regaining lost ones. 

What are the types of rehabilitation?

Among the different types of rehabilitation are physical, occupational, and speech rehabilitation. You can also refer to whether the patient is hospitalized in a specialized unit or receives outpatient rehabilitation services. 

What do mental health services do?

Among the different services that mental health care can offer is the diagnosis of mental disorders, their treatment, as well as mental health prevention strategies. 

What is a synonym for rehabilitation?

Recovery, restoration, readaptation are some of the synonyms of the word rehabilitation. They all refer to the same process o recovering a function or capability that went missing as a consequence of some illness, trauma, accident, etc. 

  1. Better Days – A Mental Health Recovery Workbook
  2. Recovery and Mental Health: A Critical Sociological Account
  3. Wellbeing, Recovery and Mental Health


  1. Guidance for commissioners of rehabilitation services for people with complex mental health needs
  2. The Mental Health Resource Guide
  3. Quality assessment of mental health rehabilitation services

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