Abnormal Psychology: Mental Health and Mental Illness


Will drugs ever replace psychotherapy?

In the late 1980s during the explosive growth of the SSRIs, there was idle talk of drugs replacing psychotherapy. Today, few people think that medications will ever replace psychotherapy. Medications treat symptoms and they are enormously helpful with the most severe mental illnesses. However, they cannot replace the human element that is so central to the effectiveness of psychotherapy. Moreover, medications and psychotherapy treat different problems. Medications are extremely effective with psychosis, mania, severe depression, anxiety, and agitation. Alternatively, psychotherapy is effective with problematic personality traits, disturbed self-image, and impaired interpersonal skills. Specific psychotherapies are also effective in the treatment of anxiety disorders and mild to moderate depression. Although medications generally work more quickly on depression and anxiety, psychotherapy tends to have more long-lasting effects and certainly has fewer side effects.


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