​Atlanta Psychological Services

Do i need therapy or medication?


There are some disorders for which medication should be taken regardless of whether or not the client is receiving psychotherapy. Examples of these include very serious and persistent forms of mental illness such as Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, and Major Depressive Disorder when therapy alone does not help, or severe Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) when therapy and behavioral management alone does not provide enough symptom relief. For these disorders, medication must be taken consistently for the best results.

For other disorders, psychotherapy can be the best, first treatment approach, with medication being sought only if psychotherapy alone is not sufficient. In yet other circumstances, medication can help jump-start the client so that he or she can be in a better situation to benefit from therapy.

Medication functions primarily by restoring proper chemical functioning in the brain. Thus, while medication can offer relief from the symptoms of depression more quickly than psychotherapy, this relief can disappear when the medication is no longer taken.

In contrast, psychotherapy can teach the individual how to process and cope with life’s circumstances, assist in discovering the root causes of his or her symptoms, and learning techniques to manage those symptoms without the need for medication. Some research also has shown that individuals who receive psychotherapy, for depression for example, can have less relapses of depressive episodes.

For children with severe behavior problems, such as aggression or other forms of acting out behavior, it might be tempting to give them medication to control their behavior. However, in many, if not most circumstances, this is not the best initial way to facilitate change, as there are many specific behavioral management techniques which can be used along with psychotherapy to achieve the best result.

Disclaimer: Atlanta Psychological Services consists of psychologists and masters degree level therapists. We do not employ a psychiatrist or other medical doctor, and we are not licensed to prescribe or to give specific recommendations about medications.

This article is for informational purposes only. Information provided on this web site is not intended to be used in place of professional psychological or medical advice, diagnosis, and/or treatment. If you are seeking mental health treatment, we welcome a call to this office at 770-457-5577. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911.  

The answer to this question will vary depending on any person’s particular mental health diagnosis. There are some disorders where psychotherapy can be more effective, some where medication should be the primary mode of treatment, and some where a combination of medication and therapy produces the best results. For example, while therapy can be incredibly effective at treating some disorders, it is often is best used as an adjunct to medication for others. However, in most cases, psychotherapy is a useful, important part of your mental health treatment plan.  

In order to truly understand the nature of your mental health concerns and whether or not you need therapy, medication, or both, accurate diagnosis is very important. A psychological evaluation often can be extremely helpful in clarifying diagnosis and helping your prescribing medical doctor or psychiatrist to determine if a certain class of medication would be appropriate.