There are a vast number of self-help books, peer led support groups, and various other options out there to help yourself, and though there are great benefits to these options, sometimes it is time to do something more. Many people (and sometimes very rightly so) are hesitant to try the medication option when it comes to mental health. This is very understandable. It is not a decision to make lightly. So, what do you do when you want to do something more than what you’ve been doing, but are either against or on the fence with medication?
Is Medication the Only Option Left?
First of all, therapy is highly recommended. Yes as a therapist, I may be biased here, but there is an infinite value of a third party person able to objectively help you get some perspective, or reflect on areas of need or progress, or even be a voice that lets you know at what point it is time to reconsider the medication option (if it is something you are willing to reconsider). I can definitely empathize with trying to avoid using medications, but there are legitimate things to keep in mind if this is your plan. Read on…
No Medication Means:
It is likely going to take a lot more work. Therapy is hard work with or without medication. Depending on what concerns you are working on, your thinking process, your social interactions, your emotional experience or more may all be affected by said concern. For example, depression can significantly impact your ability to see things clearly and to really focus on the positives or progress. Without that boost of assistance from medication (i.e. increased mental clarity, improved emotional stability, etc), it will likely be harder. With regard to children (with whom I specialize), this means it is harder work for both the child and the parents (and possibly also the school and the daycare, depending on age). This does not mean progress is not possible, but do know that it will be harder.
It is likely going to take longer to progress. Again, depending on what you are working on, this can vary greatly. Medication or not, some people may stay in therapy for years to maintain their mental health, while others may only need 4-6 sessions. If you choose to give it a try without medication, you are going to have to be patient; whatever the medication might have done to help your thinking or emotions is likely going to take longer to catch up. Be patient!
Monitor yourself: set small goals, and if you are not progressing, reconsider the medication option. Not everyone may be receptive to this one, but if things are not getting better, you’ve got to do something! Everyone is different, which is why any good clinician is going to individualize your treatment. Yes, some people can make progress without medication. But, there are others who may discover in this process that they need it. At the end of the day, it is a quality of life issue. If you have given it time and effort and are not happy with your progress, then reconsider medication.
Medication Is Just Another Tool
In summary, it is a difficult decision whether or not to try medication. Consider your options and keep the above things in mind. Should you end up deciding to give medication a try, remember: it may take some trial and error. Communicate with both your therapist and physician to ensure you are on the right medication and dosage for you. Also, remember that just because you try medication does not mean you have to stay on it forever!
18 Jul 2014