First of all, I am not a doctor. I cannot prescribe medications. What I am understanding so far is that if people are having problems sometimes they seek medication to fix those problems. As far as mental health goes the practice is that if you prescribe medications they work better if you have therapy to supplement what the medication is supposed to be doing for you. If you don’t do the “work” and you rely on the medication alone, you really aren’t learning anything and you go back to square one when you stop taking the medication. Medications do not teach coping skills. Some people need the medication, but in my opinion we could all use the therapy.
I have been asked about herbal supplements. By all means explore. Western medicines are designed to get immediate results and generally are very strong. The problem with this is to fix one thing, there is something else in the system that suffers. I’m talking side effects. With herbal supplements the effects are more gentle and subtle. Herbal supplements might take longer and almost always require a lifestyle change.
Let me share with you an example of our view on Western medicine as seen through experience. Let’s say someone and I will make up a name here for the sake of the story “Gregory” This main character, “Gregory” gets heartburn frequently and wants to feel better. He decides to get a prescription for a medication that relieves heartburn and acid reflux. He tries it. It works great. Western medicine at it’s finest, he’s “cured”. Yay! Everything is going well. Gregory gets to eat what he wants and doesn’t get heartburn. Then Gregory runs out of the medication and can’t get it for a week. He asks me, “what can I do, I can’t get my heartburn medication for a week.” I tell him that until he can see the doctor again and get another prescription he can: eat smaller portions, exercise more, reduce his caffeine and alcohol intake, and eat less spicy food. All of which will all reduce the chances of him getting acid reflux. “Gregory” thought about this for a minute and replied, “but then I can’t eat what I want!” Sounds like a joke, right? It’s a true story. In fact this is pretty much what our society does. We are told that any pill can fix our problems. Not so.
What I was asking him to do was to make a lifestyle change. Funny thing is that if he had made this lifestyle change before he would not have needed the heartburn medication. Consider this, if you are going into therapy you are usually doing so to feel better, something that you are doing is not working any more and you need to make a lifestyle change. Whether you are thinking negative thoughts that make you depressed or if you are having panic attacks because you are afraid that something bad is going to happen, you may have to make some changes in your life, even if it’s to change how you think.
What we eat and how we live our life does effect our body. Make no mistake about this. If you deal with stress by smoking cigarettes and drinking martinis all night your body is going to suffer over time. If you don’t exercise and watch TV all day there will be consequences for this too. If you know that you need to do something different I am here to help. It all begins with learning about developing better habits and improving your mental health. Call or email me for an appointment. I have a sliding fee schedule and will find room for you in my practice if you want to take that first step for a new life.
Patrick Matthews MS LPC