How Do I Choose Between Medication and Therapy

Medications, therapy and their combination have been shown to help people with emotional or behavioural problems. Different kinds of problems will respond differently to various treatments, so choosing the right treatment can be complicated. Your choice of treatment should be based on the best available scientific evidence, as well as your willingness to try these treatments. Whatever the choice, these discussions should be reviewed with your mental health professional. Here are some things to consider:

Best Evidence:
• For depression, counselling, as well as antidepressant medications, have shown to be helpful. There is some evidence that combining counselling and medications may be more effective than either treatment alone. People who are suicidal may need to be treated in a hospital.
• For anxiety disorders, therapy, antidepressant medications and anti-anxiety medications have all been shown to be helpful. Research generally shows that therapy is more effective than medications and that adding medications does not significantly improve outcomes from therapy alone.
• For alcohol and drug use disorders, therapy and environment-based therapies, as well as 12-step support programs, have been shown to be helpful. People with severe substance use problems may also benefit from the addition of certain medications that reduce the cravings or intoxication effects.
• For schizophrenia or bipolar disorders, most people require treatment with antipsychotic or mood-stabilizing medications. Research suggests that adding counselling to the treatment can improve functional outcomes.
• For problems with parenting, marriage or adjustment, therapy is usually the first recommendation. This treatment can help you build skills and respond more appropriately to stressors.

Personalize Your Treatment
• Different people respond to treatments differently. Therefore, if one treatment does not help, try adding the other. Research shows that therapy can be helpful even for people who do not respond well to medications,
• Counselling and medications both require that you stick with the treatment. Results do not happen overnight. Therefore, only start treatment if you are willing to continue it long enough for it to help you.
• You will most likely stick to the treatment if it makes sense to you. Therefore, it is important that you discuss the treatment thoroughly with your therapist and that the treatment is explained in a way that you can understand.