Sunday, February 15, 2009

Medication Management

I have many clients who opt to take medication in conjunction with psychotherapy. I feel that each client is responsible to rate their functioning levels and to determine if medication is right for them. The client often wants my opinion on this matter and I am neither for nor against medication. I tell the client it is solely their decision but I will help them to figure out what is best for them.

I often have clients enter therapy who have already been prescribed medication by their primary care physician for mental illness. Why do physicians do this? They refer patients to all kinds of specialists for all kinds of conditions, why not refer a client to a mental health specialist??? I make a point to spend time with my clients to explain why going to a mental health specialist such as a Psychiatrist is very important. I ask "If you had diabetes, cancer or a heart condition would you go to a specialist?" They always answer "Of course!" So why wouldn't they go to a specialist for a mental condition? We discuss that a Psychiatrist is a specialist for a reason and that they only deal with mental illness. They also prescribe blood work to follow some levels of medication in your system.

An example:
A man goes to his primary care physician for signs of depression. Over the course of about 6 months, the man is prescribed about 3 different medications that "weren't working", as reported by the client. The client was in therapy (not with me) and the doctor continued to recommend medications without referring to a mental health specialist. The last time, he was prescribed a cocktail of medications. Well, because the client wasn't properly diagnosed and because the doctor obviously didn't have extensive experience with mental illness, the client had an adverse reaction to the drug combination and became suicidal. Thank goodness he was able to reach out for help and was admitted to a psychiatric unit where they immediately rearranged his medications and gave him the proper diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder.

This was not the first or last story I have heard on this topic. I am happy to use this forum to educate others to make sure they see a mental health specialist who will give them the proper diagnosis and medication. I realize there are certain taboos regarding mental health professionals but sometimes we have to realize it could save your life!!!