The answer to this question will vary depending on any person’s particular mental health diagnosis. There are some disorders where psychotherapy can be more effective than medications, and there are some disorders that benefit primarily from medication approaches. Additionally, some conditions respond best to both therapy and medication. For example, while therapy can be incredibly effective at treating some disorders, it is often best used as an adjunct to medication for others. However, in most cases, psychotherapy is a useful, important part of your mental health treatment plan.
To truly understand the nature of your mental health concerns and whether or not you need therapy, medication, or both, accurate diagnosis is vital. A psychological evaluation can often be extremely helpful in clarifying diagnosis and helping your prescribing medical doctor or psychiatrist determine if a certain medication class would be appropriate.
There are some disorders for which medication should be taken regardless of whether the client is receiving psychotherapy. Examples of these include severe and persistent forms of mental illness such as Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, and Major Depressive Disorder when therapy alone does not help, or severe Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) when therapy and behavioral management alone does not provide enough symptom relief. For these disorders, the medication must be taken consistently for the best results.
For other disorders, psychotherapy can be the best, first treatment approach, with medication being sought only if psychotherapy alone is insufficient. In yet other circumstances, medication can help jump-start the client to be in a better situation to benefit from therapy.
Medication functions primarily by restoring proper chemical functioning in the brain. Thus, while medication can offer relief from the symptoms of depression more quickly than psychotherapy, this relief can disappear when the medication is no longer taken.
In contrast, psychotherapy can teach the individual how to process and cope with life’s circumstances, assist in discovering the root causes of his or her symptoms, and learning techniques to manage those symptoms without the need for medication. Some research also has shown that individuals who receive psychotherapy, for depression, for example, can have fewer relapses of depressive episodes.
It might be tempting to give them medication to control their behavior for children with severe behavior problems, such as aggression or other forms of acting out behavior. However, in many, if not most circumstances, this is not the best initial way to facilitate change. Many specific behavior management techniques can be used along with psychotherapy to achieve the best result.
Disclaimer: Atlanta Psychological Services consists of psychologists and masters degree level therapists. We do not employ a psychiatrist or other medical doctor, and we are not licensed to prescribe or give specific recommendations about medications.
This article is for informational purposes only. Information provided on this website is not intended to be used in place of professional psychological or medical advice, diagnosis, and/or treatment. If you are seeking mental health treatment, we welcome a call to this office at 770-457-5577. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911.