If you have the time and money, which isn't always the case, psychotherapy should generally be seen as the first best option for addressing mental health issues such as anxiousness or a depressive state. Turning to medication straight away can be a mistake.

Seeking Relief from Psychological Disorders

Psychological conditions like anxiety and depression can be debilitating. They manifest both psychological and physical symptoms that interfere with day-to-day activities, especially if left untreated. And these are just two of many psychological disorders that commonly require attention.

Faced with crippling symptoms, many people turn to medications in the form of anti-anxiety and antidepressant drugs. The advantages are obvious, like getting fast relief, or at least change, with minimal effort.

But many people eventually figure out that the medications don’t really provide a cure. What’s worse is that they can be harmful with continued, long-term use. A less risky path with greater long term potential in many cases is psychotherapy.

Risks from Psychotropic Medications

One of the most compelling reasons why cognitive therapy should be favored over psychotropic medications is that it doesn’t produce the adverse side effects usually associated with the latter.

Antidepressants, for instance, can cause a wide range of debilitating side effects that significantly lower your quality of life. After all, who would want to have to cope with nausea, lowered sexual desire, fatigue, and insomnia consistently? These are but some of the side effects you might experience with such drugs.

Additionally, there is a tendency to becomes addicted to medication, potentially creating long-term health problems greater than any therapeutic benefits achieved.

Proven Medical Effectiveness of Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is advisable, at least as a first step to take, because research shows that it’s ultimately more effective as a treatment. This can be said for forms of it like intensive cognitive-behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy. These two therapies have been shown to be beneficial for sufferers of depression and eating disorders.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is effective for many conditions, such as alcohol and drug addiction and even schizophrenia. As many as 80 per cent of patients that receive psychotherapy report better progress in treatment. The results can, in some instances, be improved by using complementary medications.

Psychotherapy has Minimal Side Effects

Personal therapy solutions have essentially no adverse side effects. While there are alleged negative impacts of cognitive therapy (like patients tending to fail in coping with interpersonal difficulties), they ultimately occur rarely and only affect a very small amount of patients.

Most patients that experience these negative effects are usually those that are trying to recover from substance abuse, as studies show. The positive techniques can also potentially confer benefits to multiple aspects of a patient's life, beyond the immediate clinical requirements.

Treatment is a Challenging but Beneficial Process

Many people tend to shun psychotherapy because it can take a toll in terms of money and time. Patients who undergo psychotherapy should be prepared to commit to their treatment until they’re finished. You can’t expect positive results immediately, but you can anticipate them as long as you stick to your personalized treatment.

Prepare yourself and be ready for a long treatment once you decide to go for psychotherapy to treat your mental illness. Considering the risks of drug alternatives, it could all be worth it ultimately.

Further Information

For further information about treatment choices, consult a health practitioner. Also, refer to resources such as the condensed article "How Do I Choose Between Medication and Therapy?" by the American Psychological Association.

Author's Bio: 

Clare McLeod is a research psychologist. She has a Master of Professional Psychology degree from Monash University.