This week’s guest blog is by Dr. Henry Steinberger, a licensed psychologist in private practice at Henry Steinberger PhD LLC, in Madison Wisconsin. He offers clients choices: secular recovery based on science vs. spiritual; abstinence vs. moderation. In addition, working with Acceptance & Commitment Therapy as well as Mindfulness Training has proven more effective in Dr Steinberger’s practice with clients presenting with trauma, addiction, co-occurring or adult ADHD, than other theraputic models.
As a psychologist I encounter a few clients who are dead set against even considering taking a medication, yet they can’t seem to progress in therapy. Could medications help? I ask you to consider the question.
Let me be clear: I am not a shill for the pharmaceutical industry. Indeed, I strongly agree with the psychiatrist blogger who said: “Psychopharmacology without therapy is like treating an infection with Tylenol”. We clearly agree that medications do not cure a “psychiatric disease” and that psychiatrists are “not even sure what the disease actually is”.
So why take a medication then? When clients first see me at Henry Steinberger PhD LLC, I find that some have chosen me as a psychologist because they know that a psychologist can’t prescribe psychiatric medications and might even share their bias against the use of drugs. Such clients may even start out saying: I don’t want to take any drugs. And they often have very clear and understandable reasons for this a priori decision. As I see it, there is usually no need for medications and so no need to argue over. But when it becomes clear that medications might be useful or even necessary, and then I must answer this question if we are to move forward towards a successful outcome.
The whole point of taking medications is symptom reduction. Reduced symptoms or a respite from their intensity can give my client an opportunity to look at their situation without feeling overwhelmed with symptoms; allowing space, time and energy for understanding and learning a new point of view and new more helpful behaviors. In my book that’s the point of medications.
For instance, treating depression with an antidepressant is not the solution. But consider, one prominent symptom of depression involves a feeling of having lost or not having enough energy. Other symptoms include a lack of concentration, sleep, and self-care, and any of these can make new learning more difficult than it needs to be. The correct medication(s) can help with these while you figure out how to handle depression in the long run.
Change almost always requires learning new ways of interpreting and coping with one’s environment. According to Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT) depression can involve, amongst other problems, a lack or loss of focus on what life-directions one regards as important and a commitment to pursue those valued directions despite those discomforts which we often regard as uncomfortable symptoms of depression. Though it may not hold true for all depressive symptoms, at least some symptoms result from biology or chemical imbalances, and bipolar disorders appears to have a strong biological component. Does that mean that medications are always required? There is evidence that changing behavior can lead to changes in brain chemistry similar to those linked to taking medications, so in the long run medications are not always required for a lifetime. And even when ongoing medication is necessary, as in the case of bipolar disorder, medication without other support is often a bad choice.
Of course the choice of whether or not to even consider taking medications temporarily is ultimately up to you if you are my client. But well informed consideration may prove more helpful than blind prejudice. For this reason I have written this little essay and invite you, if this is your issue, to weigh out the pros and cons of your decision.
Dr. Henry Steinberger is a licensed psychologist in private practice, at Henry Steinberger PhD LLC, in Madison Wisconsin. He offers clients choices: secular recovery based on science vs. spiritual; abstinence vs. moderation. Working with Acceptance & Commitment Therapy as well as Mindfulness Training has proven more effective in Dr Steinberger’s practice with clients presenting with trauma, addiction, or co-occurring issues, than other theraputic models.
Visit Dr Steinberger at: http://www.linkedin.com/in/drhenrysteinberger
Contact Information: (608) 247-5199