Do I need therapy?

Do I Need Therapy If My Antidepressant Makes Me Feel Good?

That’s a good question, one that often comes our way. Antidepressant medications can alleviate the sad mood of depression and also improve your sleep and energy level. Your doctor was on the right track, however, by adding therapy to the treatment plan.

Family doctors and other primary care providers (PCP’s) write about four out of every five prescriptions for antidepressant medications. However, they do so after only a brief screening—they simply don’t have the time to make a full evaluation of all the factors that might be involved in your situation. Your PCP is likely to only spend a few minutes with you before prescribing an antidepressant.

In mental health, many conditions have overlapping symptoms. A psychotherapist will typically give you a full hour evaluation in your first session and determine if indeed it’s depression you’re dealing with, something in addition, or something else altogether. Even the first session, though, won’t be adequate to cover all the variables and issues, so your therapist may add or remove diagnoses in future sessions. Additionally, your therapist will be constantly monitoring the severity of symptoms.

Although you feel better now, which is of course welcome news, the medication your doctor prescribed will not help you learn coping strategies, nor will it help you identify any factors that might have contributed to your depression. We can easily get stuck in a cycle of feeling bad and negative thinking. Psychotherapy addresses the negative thinking part of the equation. Your therapist will also help you identify background issues that may have been lurking quietly until some stress hit, and then help you clarify what’s going on, and how to cope with the whole messy situation.

Research into treatment efficacy shows that the combination of medication plus psychotherapy reduces the likelihood of relapse and improves overall outcomes for moderate to severe depression. Although we’re happy to learn that you feel good now, please take the additional step of adding psychotherapy also.

David P. Levin, M.S., LPC
Staff Therapist, Behavioral Healthcare Consultants