So which one is better?
This is a good question and is asked of the Therapists and Psychiatrists all the time. Here I'm going to attempt and answer this common question. Lets have a closer look at each one first.
Psychotherapy, Generally psychotherapy is recommended whenever a person is grappling with a life, relationship or work issue or a specific mental health concern, and these issues or concerns are causing the individual a great deal of pain or upset for longer than a few days. Most psychotherapy tends to focus on problem solving and is goal-oriented. That means at the onset of treatment, you and your therapist decide upon which specific changes you would like to make in your life. These goals will often be broken down into smaller attainable objectives and put into a formal treatment plan.
Psychotherapy is usually a medium to long-term form of treatment. However due to its teachings and exercises, the results are long lasting and patient centered. This means that at anytime in the future, in case of a recurrence, the patient will have the tools necessary to deal with the reappearance.
Psychotropic Medications, From the Greek psycho-, the mind + trop, a turning = (capable of) turning the mind. These are medications capable of affecting the mind, emotions, and behavior.
These medications are used to treat the symptoms of mental disorders such as schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder (sometimes called manic-depressive illness), anxiety disorders, and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
The main benefit of taking a Psych-Med is a quick change. Though there are many other benefits, the quick change is the main reason a patient is given medication. The meds help the patient stabilize to a level that Psychotherapy can become more acceptable and helpful.
Side Effects, This has been a worry for many who prescribe and those who take Psychotropic meds. The side effects can be psychological or physical or a combination of both. Patient education in this area is of essence. Unfortunately due to shortage of time and the economy of the business, the psychiatrists do not have the time to spend with their patience and discuss these medications in detail. Nor do they often get any feedback. A patient experiencing a side effect could stop taking the medication without consulting with their psychiatrist first. For more information on Medication and side effects please see my Psych-Med page.
Based on what we just learnt about the two alternatives, my opinion is that there are cases where medication can be very helpful in providing more immediate results. These can particularly be useful in cases of Depression, Bipolar, and anxiety. The meds will help the patient get rid of the symptoms and by doing so, the patient is in a better frame of mind for receiving Psychotherapy.
The therapist will then help find the root of the problem and by teach the patient coping techniques and exercises to stay symptom free.
Additionally the therapist can educate the patient about their medication in many ways. They get to know what is the purpose of the medication. How it works. They will be taught about the importance of taking their meds on time and regularly. They will be prepared for the side effects and what may be expected as a result, such as weight gain. The patient has a chance to ask questions, discuss their concerns.
Finally the therapist can help the patient with feed back to the prescribing psychiatrist.
So if medication is necessary, then the best treatment results when therapy and meds are used together and there is a collaboration between different disciplines.
Remember to always ask questions about your medications and be open with your therapist about everything you feel. Openness is the best policy.
Never change the prescribed dose, or stop taking medications, without first consulting with your doctor.