Hey, Therapist! You have what the public really wants!
It can be frustrating to be a credentialed counselor or psychologist. It can be a struggle to get clients into your private practice, or funding for your agency. All too often, people with depression, anxiety, or other mental health problems are treated first with pills. And if the first round of pills does not work, then a second round of pills is tried. The dominance of pills is so complete that in my country (Canada) there are 35 million people. Yet last year, there were 47 million prescriptions for antidepressants filled in the country. That is enough for every man, woman, and child in the country. That is enough for every senior citizen, and every infant straight out of the birth canal. And it is enough for every dog and cat in the country.
Do not get discouraged about this fact. This is the situation now, but it can be reversed. Therapy can, and should, rise to the position of primacy in treating mental health problems. You, and your skills, can be the go-to answer for most mental disorders.
But how is this possible? What force is strong enough to push against the dominance of medications as a first-line intervention? Well, the same force that has toppled other powerful systems. That force is the will of the people. When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, it was because the people in the street wanted it. The Civil Rights movement in the 60’s succeeded because enough people wanted change to an abusive system of segregation. The environmental movement is gaining ground decade after decade, because people want a planet they can live on. Many corporations fight it, but the will of the people is clear.
And the will of the people in how their mental disorders should be treated is equally clear. In a meta-analysis of 34 studies, with 68,000 participants, there were 3 times as many people that preferred therapy as preferred meds. The people have spoken, and they truly want therapy for their mental disorders. They want what you can give them. They do not actually want pills that make them fat, or cause dry mouth, mania, and other side-effects. They want to deal with the cause of their problems, and to consistently feel better after.
I hear this all the time. Just last night, a client was telling me that they never wanted pills in the first place, and that they saw them as a band-aid. They were discouraged by the thought of having to take them for years. They found it very helpful to outline a plan to maintain the psychological gains they had made, and to taper off their medications. They said “I wish I had gotten into therapy with you first, and never taken those pills.”
Take heart, fellow psychologist or credentialed counselor. The public wants what you have to give them. The first step is for you to change your mindset, to see that there are tens of thousands, even millions, of people in your city who want what you offer them. They don’t actually want the pills, they want your services. Once that truth has soaked deep in your mind, then you will be much stronger in advocating for therapy in your practice or agency.
Dr. Eric Kuelker R.Psych.
P.S. If this blog post was helpful for you, then share it with a fellow therapist who could use some encouragement. Email them a link to the post.
McHugh RK1, Whitton SW, Peckham AD, Welge JA, Otto MW. (2013) Patient preference for psychological vs pharmacologic treatment of psychiatric disorders: a meta-analytic review. J Clin Psychiatry. Jun;74(6):595-602. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4156137/pdf/nihms-623724.pdf