As more and more Americans are struggling with mental, emotional, and substance use disorders, the debate between the efficacy of therapy vs. medication is heating up. Today, there’s debate and numerous studies aiming to determine which is better between therapy and medication.
As a therapist based in Berkeley, CA, Dr. Lynn Winsten is not a stranger to questions among her patients on which treatment they should choose. So, as a person struggling with a condition that needs psychiatric treatment, do you settle for therapy or go for medication?
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How to Determine Whether to Stick with Therapy or Take Medication
According to research, over 70% of Americans are on prescription medication, with the higher majority taking antidepressants. Does that mean that medication is better than therapy?
Not necessarily. The truth is that both medication and therapy work. However, the efficacy of either is highly dependent on the patient and the condition they’re treating. That’s why Dr. Lynn Winsten suggests that before making a decision on which treatment to partake in the long term, it’s essential that you start with therapy.
It’s common knowledge that many drugs have side effects that may, over time, do more harm than good. Talk therapy is least likely to induce harmful side effects, which is why we recommend it as a first resort before venturing into medication.
Nonetheless, the goal of starting with a therapist is not only to avoid side effects that may arise from using drugs to treat your condition but also to guide you on the best treatment for you. Depending on your signs and symptoms, a therapist may recommend therapy, medication, or a mix of both.
However, before choosing and committing to a specific type of treatment, a therapist will help you answer the following questions:
- What types of therapy are most effective for my condition?
- How many sessions of therapy do I need to start seeing a change?
- What’s the cost of each therapy session, and is it covered by my health insurance?
- Will I be on medication for long, and how long will it take to work?
- What are the side effects of the medications you recommend?
- Will the dosage be constant, or will it increase over time?
A therapist will help you determine the best type of therapy for you by answering these questions. Only then will you be able to decide, with a therapist’s guidance, whether to go for therapy or medication.
The Significance of Diagnosis in Determining What is Best Between Therapy and Medication
Although medication is becoming increasingly prevalent and an alternative to therapy, the main problem is that most people get prescriptions without proper evaluation.
Therefore, most people on medication don’t have a conclusive diagnosis and thus may not find the relief they seek by using medication and avoiding therapy.
So, how can you avoid taking medication that won’t help you? Below are some practices that will ensure you get the proper treatment for your condition:
- Get a psychological evaluation to ascertain your diagnosis. An evaluation will inform the type of treatment a therapist recommends and ensures you get the correct prescriptions if medication is determined to be part of your treatment.
- Make exhaustive inquiries. We can’t stress enough how important it is to ask your therapist questions. Among the questions therapists like Dr. Lynn Winsten welcome include whether you need medication, alternative medicines and therapies available for your condition, and side effects of any drugs you’re prescribed. Questions save time and give you confidence that the treatment you’re getting is the best.
- Another practice to ensure you’re on the right treatment track is continuously evaluating your progress. If you’re on therapy alone, assess whether it’s helping you overcome whatever you’re dealing with. If you’re on medication, assess its effects, including side effects. Most importantly, share your observations with your therapist to help them determine whether to keep you on the same treatment or alter it.
- Research all your options. The best therapists expect you to ask questions you don’t understand and seek guidance for the best chances of recovery. As a result, it’s essential to research available options before settling for any. When looking for a therapist, look for one who is open to guiding you on the best path to recovery based on your condition and symptoms. As part of your research, ensure the therapist you consult deals with other patients struggling with the same condition as you.
- The truth is things don’t always work out as expected, so it’s okay to have a change of heart and mind. If, for instance, you start with psychiatric drugs and later feel like it’s not the best option for you, talk to your therapist about changing your treatment to therapy only or a different combination of drugs.
How to Make the Most Out of Therapy
As we’ve already established, therapy is an essential component of psycho-treatment and can be used in isolation or with medication. However, considering that medication can have adverse side effects, how do you ensure therapy works for you?
Being honest with your mental health professional is essential for the success of your treatment. Once you start talking to a therapist, give them constant feedback on what’s working and what’s not. Tap into your feelings, and don’t hold back. That way, you let them into your world and give them insight that will help them lead you to a place of healing.
Similarly, create a rapport by maintaining eye contact, responding, and asking questions throughout the sessions.
Practice What You Learn
Therapy is about evaluating your feelings and responses and learning how to respond better, less detrimentally. During therapy sessions, a therapist typically assigns exercises to help you face and deal with varying issues, including anger, fear, resentment, anxiety, depression, and many more.
These exercises are meant to change your perspective and attitude, enabling you to deal with and handle difficult situations better. Often, the lessons will include positive affirmations. Repeating these affirmations as often as possible is a great way to transform your mindset and change your perspective on life and yourself.
Just as therapy is effective at dealing with psycho-social problems, so is self-care. Treating depression and other mental conditions requires you to work on yourself beyond attending therapy sessions.
One of the goals of therapy is to elevate your moods. Self-care does the same, so incorporating exercise, a healthy diet, and good sleeping hygiene will improve your recovery journey.
Things to Consider Before Choosing Therapy or Medication
Medication and therapy are both effective ways of treating different mental health conditions. However, whether to choose one over the other or go with a combination of both depends on your condition and diagnosis.
Nonetheless, there are specific factors you should consider before settling for either treatment option. These factors include:
- The diagnosis, mental health condition, and symptoms you’re treating
- The severity of your condition and whether you’ve achieved any results with either treatment method before
- Side effects or reactions you’ve had from either treatment before
- The type of treatment available where you live and whether there are experienced therapists near you
- The type of treatment you can afford and how fast you want the solution to work if you’re in a crisis
- Whether your symptoms are triggered by past or recent traumas
- Whether you have other medical issues that might be affected by either treatment method
Most people choose the type of treatment they choose depending on their current circumstances. As long as you have professional guidance and go for a treatment that works for you, then, by all means, you’re doing the right thing.
Nevertheless, it’s important to note that for therapy or medication to work, you must commit to the treatment for as long as required to recover. Starting therapy can be scary for most people, but we’re here to help.
With Dr. Lynn Winsten you can be rest assured that you’re in the right hands if you need to consult a therapist in and around Berkeley, CA.