Psychotherapy and Drugs


The constant drumbeat of ads for me-too anti-depressants and other drug perpetrated by the large pharmaceutical corporations has reduced the number of people choosing psychotherapy. The message of the ads is “pop a pill and feel better.” The value of anti-depressant drugs is in debate for most emotional and mental dysfunction, but you would never know that from watching television.

At best popping a pill will alleviate some of the symptoms, but not the underlying problem. When you go to the doctor with a physical complaint, you are usually advised not to take aspirin, Alleve or other many other medications. These medications mask the symptoms your doctor needs to be able to diagnose the real problem. 

There are studies which suggest that anti-depressants work as a placebo and unknowingly taking a sugar pill will do as much good. The anti-depressants however, come with a host of side-effects, from weight-gain, and loss of libido to some life-threatening increases in heart complications and suicidalality.

Here is a report in the journal Science Daily discussing the facts of psychotherapy vs medication.

Psychotherapy Is Effective but Underutilized, Review Shows

ScienceDaily (Aug. 9, 2012) — Psychotherapy is effective, helps reduce the overall need for health services and produces long-term health improvements, according to a review of research studies conducted by the American Psychological Association.

Yet, the use of psychotherapy to treat people with mental and behavioral health issues decreased over the last decade while the use of medications to address such problems has increased, according to government and insurance industry data.

“Every day, consumers are bombarded with ads that tout drugs as the answer to their problems. Our goal is to help consumers weigh those messages with research-based information about how psychotherapy can provide them with safe, effective and long-lasting improvements in their mental and physical health,” said Melba J. T. Vazquez, PhD, past president of the American Psychological Association who led the psychotherapy effectiveness review project.

As a result of the effectiveness review project, the Association’s Council of Representatives last week adopted a resolution on psychotherapy effectiveness. The resolution cites more than 50 peer-reviewed studies on psychotherapy and its effectiveness in treating a spectrum of health issues and with a variety of populations, including children, members of minority groups and the elderly.

The resolution also states Key findings of the resolution:

• Research demonstrates that psychotherapy is effective for a variety of mental and behavioral health issues and across a spectrum of population groups. The average effects of psychotherapy are larger than the effects produced by many medical treatments.

• Large multi-site and meta-analytic studies have demonstrated that psychotherapy reduces disability, morbidity and mortality; improve work functioning; and decrease psychiatric hospitalization.

• Psychotherapy teaches patients life skills that last beyond the course of treatment. The results of psychotherapy tend to last longer than psychopharmacological treatments and rarely produce harmful side effects

• While medication is appropriate in some instances, research shows that a combination of medication and psychotherapy is often most effective in treating depression and anxiety. It should also be noted that the effects produced by psychotherapy, including those for different age groups and across a spectrum of mental and physical health disorders, are often comparable to or better than the effects produced by drug treatments for the same disorders without the potential for harmful side effects that drugs often carry.

“As Americans grapple with the ever-increasing cost of health care, it is important that consumers and those who make decisions about health care access understand the potential value in both improved outcomes and cost-saving of psychotherapies,” Vasquez said. “APA applauds and continues to support collaboration of psychologists with other health care providers as part of integrated health care teams. Psychotherapies are highly effective, but only when consumers have access to them.”

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