Saturday, January 22, 2011

Medicine, Therapy, or Both?

Twice yesterday clients asked good questions about medication, therapy, and how they relate to each other.

A new client, "Mr. X"*,  was prescribed an anti-depressant by his doctor for ongoing depression due to his wife's death several years ago.  He asked my opinion about anti-depressants. He was reluctant to take an anti-depressant, feeling that he should be able to "get over it" on his own.  Like many wise individuals, my client is concerned about his health, and does not want to ingest anything that could harm him. Although like all medications, anti-depressants can cause side-effects, for most people the benefits far outweigh the side effects. Furthermore, we live in an era when there are a number of effective medications for depression, and if the first medication you try leaves you with undesirable side effects, there is a good chance that the next one your doctor prescribes will not.

What I have observed is that for some clients, anti-depressants are a temporary bridge between depression and a return to being "yourself".  Many people who are depressed are bothered by cloudy thinking and/or circular, repetitive thoughts. In such a state, clients are not always able to use therapy to it's full potential. However, anti-depressants help many people return to their normal, logical thought process. When clients can think clearly, they are able to use techniques that they learn in therapy and apply them to their outside life. Once a client feels that they are functioning and feeling better, it is often possible to gradually discontinue anti-depressants. Contrary to what some believe, anti-depressants are not addictive, but discontinuation absolutely needs to be monitored by a qualified physician.
"Bridge the Gap" between medicine and therapy

At this point you may be wondering if I am in the back pocket of a pharmaceutical firm. Absolutely not. I cannot prescribe medication. In fact, I always work with a client on natural stress reducing and mood boosting techniques before making a referral for a medication evaluation.  However, in some situations, the ongoing stress of a death, job loss, or family problems can wear people down to the point where their brain chemistry needs stronger support- ie-medication.

Many well-done independent studies have been done to research what the best treatment is for depression. The results are consistent: many people get better from therapy, many people get better from anti-depressants, but the most effective, quickest way to feel better is through a COMBINATION of medication and therapy. 

Regardless of what "Mr. X" decides regarding medication, I look forward to working with him to help him find his unique path to healing.

Be well,

 *Details changed to protect client's anonymity.

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