Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states
The Quick Fix
There is good news and bad news in the field of mental health. The good news is that more people are using psychiatric medications. This is according to a survey completed at the Psychiatric Institute at Columbia. Or, is it good news? Well, lets look at another part of the findings. At the same time medication use to relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety (among others)is increasing, the use of psychotherapy has declined. Why would I look at an increase in the use of medication as nothing other than good? There are several reasons.
Research has repeatedly shown that a combination of medication and therapy is what works, best. In some cases if what is learned in psychotherapy is consolidated it might be possible for some patients to go off of medication. For instance, cognitive behavioral therapy helps patients learn the skills necessary to stop or prevent themselves from falling into a depression.
It is entirely possible that the rise in the use of medications and the decline in attendance at sessions of psychotherapy are a result of the pressure from insurance companies to cut costs. Medication works quickly, while psychotherapy takes a long time. The problem with this type of reasoning is that rates of relapse are possible. I say possible because I do not have the statistics to back it up but I know from my practice that there were many people who ended up seeking psychotherapy because the effectiveness of the medications wore off over time. They also wanted someone to talk to.
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What also concerns me is that these findings may reflect the American penchant toward quick fixes. It is not simply a financial issue. Whether it’s in foreign affairs including the tragedy of war, the economy and job loss, or mental health, we want to be cured now. It’s not that there is anything necessarily wrong with this way of thinking. It’s just that often times there are no quick fixes. People take a long time to develop emotional problems. It takes a long time to get real and lasting relief. It’s not like surgery where good results are quickly arrived at.
Often times feeling better, let us say as a result of taking Prozac, comes as a shock because it does not feel natural and raises fears about the unknown. More people may be using medication but that does not mean they really feel better over the long term, not unless they are also in psychotherapy.
What are your opinions of and experiences with this issue. As always, your comments are appreciated and encouraged.
Allan N. Schwartz, Phd
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