While research supports that the most effective treatment for mental health is a combination of medication and therapy, many utilize medication only, believing therapy will not be helpful while others work hard in therapy and do not see medication as an option. There are a few reasons for this difference in beliefs:
Though an individual may be struggling, when medication or counseling are brought up, common responses are “It’s not for me” or “I’m working on it myself”. Though experiencing challenges, many individuals relate to the stigma of mental illness, which still remains rampant across communities. Stigma surrounding mental health includes beliefs that one may be seen as weak or inadequate from needing therapy or medication though, in fact, we know it takes much strength to seek support.
2) Negative Prior Experiences
It makes sense that if someone tried therapy or medication in the past and did not have positive results, they may be resistant to trying again. This is why it is crucial to work with a therapist or prescriber who can meet your needs and be aware of and willing to discuss any concerns you may have.
3) Institutional Trauma
For those who may have been required or pressured to take medication in the past, their experience of medication took away their autonomy and independence. Those pressured to take ADHD medication as a child or someone forced into an involuntary hospitalization or forced into therapy may have reservations about medication, therapy or both.
So, why is it important that one be in therapy while taking medication?
1) Medication supports the management of symptoms
When prescribed by a professional, medication can reduce the intensity of one’s symptoms and the ability to self-regulate increases across diagnoses.
2) When symptoms are managed, it is easier to address core issues
With an increased ability to self-regulate, it is easier to think about, explore, and challenge problematic beliefs and behaviors that have been created by those symptoms or exacerbated by them.
3) Awareness and support allow you to choose
Therapy increases self-awareness and medication provides support for the nervous system. Thus, together, this creates a sense of agency and allows for better management of one’s life. This can allow an individual to make new choices, seek new experiences, and create a life they want to lead.
4) You are in control
It is your choice when to start and stop both therapy and medication. Once having skills gained in therapy, many individuals decide to stop medication. When starting medication, it is crucial to be in therapy. As symptoms reduce in intensity, therapy supports the ability to become self-aware and utilize both cognitive and behavioral strategies and tools to challenge negative beliefs and behaviors. This creates positive change for the individual at large.
If you are ready to work with a therapist to help manage your medication and symptoms, click here for more information.