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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Beyond the "Band Aid" Approach to Overcoming Psychological Problems - Part 1

In most cases getting psychological help should be more than just a "band aid" or "quick fix" approach, especially for people who have a history of trauma or who have complex psychological problems.  

Beyond the "Band Aid" Approach to Overcoming Psychological Problems

Unfortunately, the "band aid" approach has been a trend in mental health for the last decade or so and there's no sign that this will change any time soon.

What Are "Band Aid" or "Quick Fix" Approaches to Psychological Problems?
For a variety of reasons, including the heavy promotion of psychotropic drugs by pharmaceutical companies who are making huge profits, many more people, who really need more in-depth psychological treatment, are being encouraged to seek "quick fix" solutions to their problems.

Beyond the "Band Aid" Approach to Overcoming Psychological Problems

The "band aid" or "quick fix" solution often involves just taking medication or a "triage" approach to therapy.

The "band aid" approach is usually inadequate for most people because without psychotherapy, clients don't develop an understanding about their problems, nor do they develop skills to overcome these problems.

Psychotropic Medication Alone Isn't as Effective as Psychotherapy For Many Psychological Problems
While it's true that in many cases psychotropic medication might be necessary to help with stabilization, there are also many more cases where clients are encouraged to rely solely on medication when they could benefit more from attending psychotherapy.

In addition, there are often side effects to psychotropic medication that clients are unaware of before they start taking them.  Some of the side effects are mild, but some are more significant.

Also, what happens when clients want to stop medication (hopefully, in collaboration with their doctor)?

Very often, when people stop taking medication and they haven't attended therapy, they return to their former level of psychological functioning without the medication because they haven't learned, beyond taking a pill, what changes they can make themselves to overcome their problems.

So, in many cases, they resume the medication, and it becomes an endless cycle.

Medication Alone Usually Isn't as Effective as Therapy For Many Psychological Problem

This isn't to say that people should stop taking psychotropic medication without consulting with their doctor.  As I've said, there are particular problems (like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, to name just two) where medication is necessary.  There are also times when medication can be helpful as an adjunct to therapy.

The problem arises when clients only take medication without attending therapy.

Many people, who rely solely on medication, would benefit more from seeing a licensed psychotherapist.

What is the Triage Approach to Therapy?
Aside from just taking medication, triage therapy is where the client comes to therapy in crisis and the therapist helps the client to feel better momentarily in a few sessions without getting to the root of the problem.

Beyond the "Band Aid" Approach to Overcoming Psychological Problems

For some people, like people who are in war-torn countries or who experience natural disaster, who have limited access to therapy, and who are in crisis, triage therapy might be all that is possible.  In those cases, triage therapy is better than no therapy at all.

But aside from these unique circumstances, the problem with this approach is that, while the client might "feel better" momentarily because she or he vented about the problem for a few sessions, the client has no meaningful understanding of the problem.  In other words, aside from "feeling good" for the moment, nothing substantial has really changed.

When this occurs, these clients feel some relief from their psychological problems which, of course is important, but this relief is usually short lived.  And since nothing of substance has changed for them psychologically, they will often return again and again (either to the same therapist or to a different therapist) when the temporary feelings of relief have subsided.

Temporary Feelings of Relief Can Lead Eventually to a "Revolving Door" Cycle 

This can set up a "revolving door" cycle for many clients.  After many of these attempts, they often get discouraged and feel that therapy "doesn't work" for them.  They don't understand, and no one has ever educated them, that there's no shortcut to making significant changes and that while there might be different forms of therapy that tend to be shorter and more effective than others, the "quick fix" approach of only attending a few sessions usually doesn't work for long.

How Can Psychotherapy Help?
When a skilled mental health professional provides psychotherapy services, it can help clients by:
  • providing an empathic and supportive environment where clients feel cared about and understood (for many people, this might be their first meaningful experience of feeling really heard and cared about in their lives)
  • empowering clients to understand their problems, including dysfunctional patterns that they keep repeating in their lives
  • helping clients to develop the necessary internal resources and skills they will need to make and sustain important changes 
  • helping clients to work through and overcome psychological problems 
The "band aid" approach, whether it involves just taking medication or a triage approach in therapy, doesn't do this.

In the next article, I'll give an example to clarify why the "band aid" approach usually doesn't work and how psychotherapy can be beneficial (see my article:  Beyond the "Band Aid" Approach to Overcoming Psychological Problems - Part 2).

Getting Help in Therapy
In the meantime, if you've either tried on your own or you've only ever sought a "quick fix" approach to your problems, you could benefit from attending therapy with a licensed mental health professional who will work with you to empower you in a meaningful way to resolve your problems.

Getting Help in Therapy in a Meaningful Way

Rather than looking for shortcuts that don't work, you could have a more meaningful experience in therapy so you can overcome your problems and live a more fulfilling life.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, you can call me at (917) 742-2624 during regular business hours or email me.

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