The New York Times Sunday edition for 7-19-15 included a commentary by the psychiatrist Richard Friedman. He is a frequent contributor to the NYT and seems to have progressive attitudes about the benefits of psychological and other non-medicinal treatments. His current commentary, “Psychiatry’s Identity Crisis,” is a powerful summary of the limits of mental health medications and the benefits of therapy for many mental health patients.
He noted that there new drugs have been safer than old ones, “but they are no more effective.” He goes on to note concern about trends in research funding, saying, “…it seems that leaders in my field are turning their backs on psychotherapy and psychotherapy research.” And, “…psychotherapy has been shown in scores of well-controlled clinical trials to be as effective as psychotropic medication for very common psychiatrist illnesses like major depression and anxiety disorders.” And, “a majority of Americans clearly prefer psychotherapy to taking medication.” And, “There is often no substitute for the self-understanding that comes with therapy. Sure, as a psychiatrist, I can quell a patient’s anxiety, improve mood and clear psychosis with the right medication. But there is no pill – and probably never will be – for any number of painful and disruptive emotional problems that we are heir to.”
He concludes with, “Given the critically important value – and popularity- of therapy, psychotherapy research deserves a much larger share of research dollars than it currently receives.”
My take: This is a powerful argument by a prominent psychiatrist in support of the value of what we do, and the need for more research support for our field. This article could potentially be provided to PCPs to help inform that of the benefits of therapy and to encourage them to make referrals to therapists as commonly as they make referrals to psychiatrists.