Talk therapy or mental health medication – do you need to choose?
I have been practicing as a licensed clinical psychologist in Illinois for almost thirty years. It became clear to me, during my many years of practice, that some people needed mental health medications in addition to talk therapy in order to have a better life, and I wanted to be able to provide both kinds of treatment together. Therefore, I received five years of additional education and training in order to be able to prescribe mental health medications to my patients in New Mexico where I teach family medicine doctors in a residency.
Now that I have had seven years experience with prescribing mental health medications, I am able to share some observations drawn from my experience.
First, both talk therapy and medication work.
Studies show that most people benefit from talk therapy when they are experiencing stress, anxiety and problems with mood and motivation. Studies also show that some, but not most, people benefit from medication when they are experiencing those same conditions. For the most part, the people who benefit from medication have more severe forms of problems with anxiety, mood, and motivation.
Second, many people benefit the most from a combination of medication and talk therapy.
This is true for conditions like chronic anxiety and depression. However, some people with these conditions benefit primarily from talk therapy and may actually be held back by the use of medication, and others benefit primarily from medication and may not be helped by talk therapy.
Third, it depends on the condition.
There is a generally accepted set of specific conditions that require medication, and other specific conditions that really only benefit from talk therapy. An example of a condition which might require medication is when a person is “hearing voices” or “seeing things” which others do not hear or see.
An example of a specific condition that really only benefits from talk therapy, is panic. In that case, panic can be managed temporarily with medication, but true and permanent help comes from talk therapy, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and by not permanently relying on medication.
Three conclusions can be drawn from these observations.
- Talk therapy is valuable in almost all conditions troubling people experiencing psychological distress. Therefore, whether or not you have been offered or take medication, you are likely to benefit from the kinds of talk therapies we offer at Hoover and Associates. For many of you, the talk therapy is all that you will need.
- If you need medication in addition to talk therapy, we are happy to work with the medical doctor you choose.
- Prescribing mental health medications along with offering talk therapy has reminded me of how valuable talk therapy is. The value is almost universal with only a small group of people not benefitting from any form of talk therapy.