As awareness of depression rises and stigma of this common mental health concern fades, a greater number of people are being treated for depression than ever before. But as the depression treatment rate has risen in the past twenty years, the rate of psychotherapy participation for depression has steadily dropped. Not surprisingly, that drop in therapy corresponds with a rise in the use of antidepressant medications. So even though therapy is widely accepted as the most effective way to treat depression, people (or their doctors) are increasingly inclined toward the “quick fix” approach of antidepressants. This is not to say that antidepressants are useless: a combination of therapy and medication returns some of the highest recovery rates. But medication without therapy has shown time and again to be minimally helpful.
There’s no single reason that people turn to antidepressants when therapy may be more helpful. As pointed out by John M. Grohol, Psy.D., reasons could include lack of therapy insurance coverage (thankfully this is changing), or simply a primary care doctor not being well-informed of how to treat depression in a nuanced, effective, and personalized way. Grohol encourages patients to reach beyond the “Let’s just see if meds help” mentality and request referral to a counselor or therapist. Or patients can simply find a therapist on their own: referrals aren’t usually required anymore.
The advantage of therapy is that it recognizes the individual situation of the person struggling with depression. Treatment is tailored based on that person’s history, personality, and immediate needs. Sometimes this does include medication, but in conjunction with additional treatment methods that will help the individual regain control of their thoughts, feelings, and life. In fact, in addition to being more statistically successful than medication, therapy can also help prevent a relapse of depression. A new study finds that once the primary course of therapy is finished, people who take a few weeks of mindfulness therapy stay depression-free much longer than people who are treated with medication over the same time period. Yet another reason to give therapy a serious chance.
© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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