One of the more common concerns expressed by patients is about taking medications for depression or anxiety. Many times, we want to be able to do things on our own without the need for something “artificial”. Other times, we just have a gut reaction to the thought of having to take medications for something that’s “all in our head”.
The most important part, regardless of whether you take medications or not, is to have a comprehensive evaluation by a counselor or mental health practitioner. This ensures that you will have all the information you need in order to make an informed decision. Certainly, psychiatrists and psychiatric mental health nurse professionals will lean towards the use of medications, however you should be aware of the information they have to offer before making up your mind. Information is power, and you should be kind to yourself by allowing all the possibilities to be discussed.
In the case where you have some flexibility in whether you need medication or not, the good news is that Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been shown to be just as effective as taking medications. This is more than just “talk therapy” where problems are discussed and solutions devised; CBT has a specific, structured approach toward therapy. It often involves a review of thoughts, emotions, and behavioral in conjunction with examining our beliefs about ourselves and the life experiences that have shaped them.
Specific behavioral tasks are assigned as a part of “homework” in order to help. They act as a “lens” to help focus your new thoughts and behaviors to effect change in how you feel. Reviewing progress and feedback are also a critical part of CBT. We tend to have a significant amount of baggage in how we think about ourselves and others, so it can be difficult to pinpoint what are referred to as “automatic thoughts”.
When done effectively, CBT can be performed over the course of 8-12 sessions on average. Additionally, CBT is recognized by insurance as a valid treatment method for both depression and anxiety. The skills you learn will likely benefit you throughout the rest of your life.
As for medications, they do have their usefulness. When symptoms interfere with our lives to such a degree that we can’t focus on change, they can be a lifesaver. Additionally, adding them at the same time as receiving CBT can actually make a significant impact on things. However, if you prefer to try it without medications (and you don’t need them according to your mental health practitioner), then Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy is a time honored method that is both effective and beneficial.