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If I Take Mental Health Medications, Should I Start Individual Therapy?
Why Mental Health Medications and Individual Therapy Make a Great Team
Mental health medication and individual therapy do not have to be mutually exclusive. Maybe you have already told your doctor, OBGYN, or pediatrician about your mental health symptoms. You explain your frustrations and challenges. Then, your doctor prescribes medication to help manage your symptoms. If this describes you, you might wonder if therapy is a good fit for your needs. Especially if the medications seem to be helping.
Luckily, medication and individual therapy are a great team! (Related Article: Counseling- What it is and What it isn’t). Today, you will learn why individual therapy and medication can work together to improve your mental health.
Using Medication to Treat Symptoms
When it comes to treating your mental health concerns, you will work to address two aspects of your problem. Let’s talk about the first half; your symptoms.
Your symptoms are typically the first noticeable part of your mental health concerns. Symptoms of mental health problems may start out as mild nuisances. For example, you might begin to feel a little anxious every time you go out with friends. Or maybe you notice you feel tired all of the time. Then, you start to have overwhelming anxiety and can’t leave the house. Or your body feels so tired you can’t keep up with your responsibilities at work and home. (Related article: Emotions 101- How to Be Emotionally Healthy)
These symptoms can be normal and expected in moderation. But, once these symptoms become so overwhelming that you are unable to live a happy, productive life, you might seek help from a doctor or medical professional.
That’s where medication can be a great tool for improving your mental health. Mental health medications come in many forms. A psychiatrist, family doctor, or psychiatric nurse practitioner can help you review medication options and decide which options are right for your symptoms. Medications address how your brain responds to certain feelings and thoughts. These feelings and thoughts turn into symptoms. And the right medications can help you begin to feel like yourself again.
Individual Therapy Helps You Heal
So, if medication is so effective, why do you need to go to therapy, too? (Related Article: Individual Counseling) It’s common to believe that once your symptoms are treated with medication, therapy is unnecessary. But that is not the case. In fact, therapy functions in an entirely different way when it comes to improving your mental health- it helps you address the causes of your symptoms.
Think of it this way. Let’s revisit the scenario where you begin to feel anxious whenever you go out with friends. The anxiety becomes overwhelming. You go to the doctor, get medication to manage the anxiety, and you feel better. Problem solved, right? Not yet. Let’s say that the anxiety you had going out with friends was tied to a stressful incident. Maybe you were embarrassed publicly. Or you struggle with self esteem. You might even be dealing with other stressors that happen to increase your anxiety generally. And, when you go out in public, those stresses suddenly surface.
Your medication helps you to effectively manage the anxiety. But, it doesn’t address these root causes of your anxiety. Symptoms are managed with good medication. Then, therapy can help you address the cause for why you are struggling. Therapy gives you the practical tools you need to cope when things get hard. In therapy you can also address the situations and ideas that created your symptoms in the first place. (Related Article: Learning How to Cope in Individual Therapy)
Therapy and Medication: An Effective Team
So, what happens when you combine therapy and mental health medications? Mental health medications can help get your symptoms to a manageable point. Medication can make it mentally easier to participate in therapy and apply what you learn. And therapy can give you tools to help you more effectively cope where the medications may not be as effective on their own.
Research has shown that for many mental health concerns, medication and therapy are most effective when used together. (Source). Plus, when used in tandem, medication and therapy can help you see longer-lasting improvements (Source).
Getting Started in Therapy
Individual therapy and medication can work together for longer lasting, more impactful solutions to your mental health problems. And even if you are not taking medication, therapy can give you the tools you need to cope with your challenges and feel better overall. Ready to get started? Begin individual therapy in Orem, South Jordan, or Spanish Fork.
Written by Lauren Adkins