The love/hate relationship of mental health professionals is centered mainly around psychopharmacology. While advances in the field have meant that mental health drugs are more suited and safer than ever before, it is by no means perfect. On a day to day basis many who work in the field find patients who are over medicated, under medicated, want medication, and flat out refuse. Often, the adjustment periods and side effects can account for much of the non-compliance and issues individuals have with the prescription.
Let’s look at it from another perspective. Roughly fifty-sixty years ago, if you had a mental diagnosis your hope was to hold it in and hope everyone just marked you as “different,” or a one way trip to a long stay at an inpatient psych unit. With the creation of medication, that all changed. Now, despite the imperfections, medication allows the opportunity to decrease symptoms, especially severe symptoms, in a way that can work with a normal, functioning life. It is a chance to manage symptoms, not have your symptoms manage you. So even though medication isn’t the only answer, the development and evolution of psycho-pharmaceuticals means that there is hope. It is also why we need to be open minded about new studies for treatments.
As we map out the brain in more detail and learn about neurotransmitters, sub-groups, receptors, and control centers, we can begin to develop more idealistic treatments for disorders of the brain. It is frustrating to hear comments that we will never be able to cure a mental disorder, or that treatments won’t advance because it is narrow minded. If a hundred years ago you told someone that their diagnosed “insane” relative could be given a pill to manage those symptoms, they would have locked you up along with them. A similar reaction to procedures such as deep brain stimulation for bipolar disorder or schizophrenia would seem silly after things enhance over time. The most important thing is to continue working on more effective treatments.
That also means more effective clinical interventions. We must move forward in finding proper therapies that will tailor more specifically to issues, and work more universally. Research is an ongoing thing, and much of it still cannot explain the phenomena it sets out to uncover. It is true that for many, the simple act of becoming involved in therapy will show the same result compared to different evidence-based practices. Yet, it is important top continue the quest because there might be more we can do. The Social Work profession has progressed from friendly visits and pure compassion, and then jumped through Freudian psychoanalytic and has recently landed into cognitive treatments, but it does not mean the evolution is final.
So what can we do until then? Just keep swimming. Stay active and involved in upcoming research and literature. Promote alternatives to limit the need for medication, such as exercise and good healthy habits. I had the opportunity to sit in on a lecture from a psychiatrist whom I consider to be one of the most well-versed and knowledgeable I have met. His motto is the same. Use the lowest dose possible, even if it is not listed as therapeutic, and demand exercise. His belief is that mild-moderate exercise multiple times a week, along with supportive counseling would account for the majority of needs out there. And let’s see where we grow from here.
By: Courtney Kidd, LMSW
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