As mental health advocates observe and blog about World Mental Health Day today, the American Psychological Association (APA) wants to draw attention to psychotherapy as an effective treatment option for depression and other mental health issues.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression affects more than 350 million people globally. And in the United States, an estimated one in ten adults report having depression. Mental health problems lead to more than 150 million visits to doctors’ offices, clinics and hospital outpatient departments each year, making it one of the top three reasons why Americans seek medical treatment. Between 1996 and 2008, the number of prescriptions for antidepressants more than doubled from 55.9 million to 154.7 million.
Unfortunately, even though countless studies show that psychotherapy helps people living with depression and anxiety, drug therapy has become the most popular, and often the only, course of treatment prescribed over the past decade. In light of this trend, APA launched a psychotherapy awareness initiative this Fall to educate consumers about psychotherapy’s effectiveness and encourage them to ask their physicians about it as a treatment option. The United States and New Zealand are the only two countries in the world that allow direct-to-consumer advertisements for pharmaceuticals, including antidepressant, antianxiety, and antipsychotic medications. Because of this, psychotherapy is often eclipsed by rampant drug ads, which claim that a pill can lift the cloud of depression. In part to counter the billions spent on drug advertising yearly, APA is providing resources on how psychotherapy works and how to talk to your physician about getting started. While medication can be an important
part of the overall treatment approach for some, the key to good mental and physical health isn’t a magic pill; rather, it is achieved through hard work and commitment by the patient and a trained psychotherapist. To bring this point home, APA’s efforts also include a video series about a fictional miracle drug called “Fixitol,” which parody the drug ads and draw attention to the value of psychotherapy as a treatment option.
From research, we know that psychotherapy is an effective way to help people make positive changes to improve their health and well-being. Compared with medication, psychotherapy has fewer side effects and lower instances of relapse when discontinued. With the right information, more people with depression, anxiety, and chronic illness can explore the variety of treatment options available, and can create a plan that gives them the skills they need to manage their condition more effectively.
We hope that our educational efforts to raise awareness of the safety, effectiveness, and enduring effects of psychotherapy will encourage those who need mental health services to consider psychotherapy as a valuable tool in their recovery. And, a special thanks to a few of the bloggers who have written about APA’s Psychotherapy Initiative so far:
Visit www.apa.org/psychotherapy to learn how psychotherapy can help in treating depression and watch the video series, Psychotherapy: More Than a Quick Fix. Join the conversation about psychotherapy on Twitter (@apahelpcenter), use hashtag #therapyworks.