I often say that finding ways to manage and bring relief to a mental health disorder is like putting together a puzzle. There is not a one size fits all approach and various things like diet, sleep, exercise, boundaries and therapy are often part of the puzzle. Medication can be a piece of this puzzle too. While I am most definitely not a doctor and not able to prescribe medication, many clients want to discuss the role of medication in their sessions.
Sometimes clients have reservations about taking medication because of side effects or because they have heard horror stories. The concern is warranted. I encourage clients to be open and honest with their health care professional about their concerns, but also to be open minded. There is so much information around medication that is easily accessible, but that doesn’t mean it is always accurate.
Often clients are worried about the stigma surrounding mental health issues and this can influence whether or not they choose to go on medication. I try to remind clients that whatever medication they are on, is their business. If someone is taking heart medication, it is not stamped on their forehead for all the world to see. Same for medication for depression. With that being said, I have yet to speak with someone who would have any reservations taking medication for heart disease or any other physical ailment, why should a mental health disorder be any different? A mental health disorder impacts a portion of our body just as any other ailment does. It just so happens that it is the brain.
Clients using medication need to be realistic in their expectations. We have yet to make a pill that eliminates stress. Going on medication may make it more manageable to deal with life stresses, but they will still be there. It’s important too that if medication ends up being a part of your puzzle that you don’t discount the work you are doing. Often clients come in saying things are going better in their life and they attribute it to the medication. While it might allow you to handle things differently in your life, it is ultimately still you doing the work. Medication does not exercise or handle conflict, but it may help YOU to do those things.
Ultimately, I think whether or not an individual takes medication for a mental health issue needs to be decided by the client under the guidance of their health care team. I don’t think there really is a right or wrong decision regarding medication, it’s more about whether going on medication is the best choice for the individual at a given time.