As a psychologist, I often receive this question when a client is deciding between medications or therapy, or is interested in trying medication instead of therapy. Sometimes I meet clients who have tried medication alone and then realized they wanted greater insights and more solutions for what they are struggling with. Psychologically, we have learned that while medication-only can be helpful and psychotherapy-only can be beneficial, and the combination of both medication and psychotherapy is often the best treatment and provides even better outcomes for people.
Medication, often in the form of antidepressants or mood stabilizers, can help provide a type of foundation that allows a person to operate more effectively in life. Medication may enable someone to sleep regularly, attend to work or other responsibilities, and take care of people in their lives. However, more is needed for a full, high-functioning life. Medications by themselves do not teach skills, help with communication, shift a person’s perspective, or develop greater insights.
When a client struggles with depression, anxiety, or something else that is troubling them, having a foundational medication to improve their symptoms or stress during the day can be very helpful. But even more helpful is to talk to a therapist one-on-one in order to understand what has triggered such feelings. It may be that the person has a history of difficulties or traumas that should be worked through and overcome. They may need to learn how to manage a panic attack or even large feelings of stress while being at their job or taking care of their children. Therapy can also help with difficulty sleeping or ongoing feelings of sadness that have roots in deeper difficulties. Many clients benefit from having a list of coping skills that work for them. Oftentimes these recommendations are different for everyone, and can be crafted collaboratively with a therapist. Lastly, with regards to relationships, talk therapy in addition to medication helps with understanding a person’s own motivations, values in a partner, and how to work through arguments and conflicts. Talk therapy can go far beyond medications and therefore be helpful in a vastly different way.
I recommend that you consider what might be good for you in your life at the moment…and then imagine what could be even better. Medications are very helpful, but knowing yourself, your needs, and your insights, enhance medications every time.