Talk Therapy vs. Medication

Mental health treatment is no longer considered a taboo subject. “The Sopranos” on HBO is a good example of how mainstream the idea of seeking out mental health treatment has become. This show depicts the head mobster, Tony Soprano, as seeing a therapist on a weekly basis. Also, many drug companies now advertise anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications on television. The one that comes readily to mind is the little rock that is down in the dumps until he discovers Zoloft.

Consumers Union conducted a survey regarding mental health care among its subscribers. The results of the survey were indeed compelling and pointed towards talk therapy as an effective mental health tool.

Some of the findings from the Consumers Union Report include:

  1. Consumers who engaged mostly in talk therapy, with at least 13 sessions, had better outcomes than those whose therapy consisted mostly of medication.
  2. While drug therapy relieved symptoms faster than talk therapy, it often takes a period of trial and error to find the right medication and dosage. Also, adverse side effects were higher than listed on the medication inserts. Specifically, 40% of respondents to the survey stated that they experience a loss of sexual interest or performance, and 20% experienced weight gain.
  3. Health plan restrictions regarding number of visits allowed and cost often keep people from seeking treatment at all.

Research suggests that a combination of talk therapy and medication is the most effective form of treatment. It was found that while medications give a quick fix to the problem, long-term talk therapy provides steady, and consistent, improvement for the patient.

The current survey suggests a decline from a 1994 survey in the number of visits to a therapist for talk therapy. The average number of visits to a therapist in 1994 was 20; the current survey shows an average number of visits to be 10.

One the other hand, drug therapy has become a more common and popular form of treatment for mental health problems in the past decade. The numbers show that in 1994, roughly 40% of people seeking mental health treatment were treated with medication compared to 68% receiving medication in this recent survey.

The complete report can be seen at www.consumerreports.org.

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