Medication and Therapy: When It Comes to Mental Health, Think ‘Both/And’ – Not ‘Either/Or’
Often, it seems like most everything in life is about making a choice between one thing and another. You can go to the concert or the game on Friday night, but you can’t do both. You can go on that dream vacation or you can replace your old broken down car, but you can’t do both. You can catch up on that big project for work on Saturday or you can hang out with your family and friends, but you can’t do both. It can be easy to simply get into the habit of always thinking about choices as either/or propositions. You can do either of two things, but you can’t do both.
But not all choices are like that. Some things that might seem like either/or propositions are actually both/and propositions instead. Take treatment for mental health disorders, for example. You could take prescription medications to help manage your depression or anxiety or other disorder. You could pursue talk therapy to help manage any given mental health issue.
Your initial reaction might be to think you have to choose between the two. But you don’t. In fact, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that medication and therapy work most effectively when they work in tandem. So, sure, you could choose one or the other as your preferred method for managing your mental health disorder. But it would be so much better to choose both.
Finding the Right Medication Can Take Time – But the Benefits Can Be Significant
Medications used to treat mental health disorders are intended to influence the chemicals in your brain that are responsible for regulating your emotions and your thought patterns. This regulation can result in a lessening of a range of symptoms associated with depression, anxiety, trauma-based disorders, and the like.
Finding just the right medication for an individual can take some time. Your doctor may ask you about your family history as well as your clinical history to make a better determination about which drug or drugs to try first. The side effects that you experience, if any, may also indicate that a particular medication is not the right one for you.
We should point out here that the entire process—what medications to start and at what doses, what medications to stop and by what process, and the like—should be directed by a physician. Otherwise, you may experience unpleasant or even dangerous symptoms related to the drugs and the amount you are taking.
It’s an old and familiar instruction, but it is just as important as ever: Use your mental health medication only as directed.
Once a successful medication is found, the improvements can be profound. In fact, it is often the case that taking medication to treat a mental health disorder is the factor that makes it more possible for a person to engage in talk therapy—something they may have been resisting in the past.
Talk Therapy Can Be Tailored to Your Needs – And Can Make a Big Difference
We all have an image in our heads of what therapy is like. Many of us imagine a person laying on a couch spilling their guts while the therapist sits in a chair, takes notes, and asks the occasional opaque or deeply personal question. Not only that, but most of us have seen therapists and therapy sessions played for laughs in sitcoms or seen the mental health professional portrayed as a ruthless (and sometimes hilarious) villain in everything from comic books to horror movies.
Given all of that, it is not too hard to see why some people might feel reluctant to seek out a therapist who can help them improve their mental health and maintain that improvement over time.
But talk therapy can be extremely helpful. Among its potential benefits is the opportunity to learn coping and problem-solving skills, to find healing from trauma you may have experienced, and to talk with and learn from someone who can consider your mental health from an unbiased perspective.
There are a variety of approaches to therapy, and your mental health professional will work with you to determine the type of therapy that might be best for you and your current situation. Talk therapy is no place for cookie-cutter approaches. Instead, your therapy will be personalized so that it meets your needs.
Getting Help for Mental Health Disorders is Always the Right Choice
It is not always easy to admit that you are struggling with symptoms of depression, anxiety and panic, or a disorder grounded in traumatic experiences. But you do not—in fact, you should not—struggle alone. At Peak View Behavioral Health in Colorado Springs, we offer evidence-based care informed by our expertise, experience, and compassion. If you are struggling with your mental health, we can give you the tools and support you need to get better and to reclaim your quality of life.