As a psychologist in private practice who accepts medical insurance reimbursement, I feel privileged because my practice includes a wide variety of adults and families from all over the world with truly diverse histories as well as truly diverse Mental Health needs.
That said, most clients who come to me carry a belief that psychiatric medications are the first line of defense against mental conflicts, and they are often willing to try medication in order to overcome whatever mental conflict they are feeling.
However, I am always shocked to discover that the prescribing general practitioner or psychiatrist whom my clients encounter never (and I mean not once) seek to understand the causes of their negative feelings. Nor do these psychiatrists offer the suggestion that these negative feelings carry a message that needs to be understood.
I believe that all body feelings, emotional or purely physical, offer us necessary information, or sign posts, that if fully accepted and understood can guide us towards awareness of what ails us and consequently can help us find a cure.
If I have stomach ache, I immediately look to see what foods I have ingested. If I wake tired I will look to my sleep and the activities I engaged in the night before to help understand why I did not get enough rest and what I can do going forward.
I see mental conflicts as the same in that if I can slow down and pay attention to how I have been living leading up to my emotional crisis, I can often identify the origin of the problem and then take steps to correct it.
The difference I find is that unlike stomach aches and sleepless nights, most people in our country today are not often taught nor are they encouraged to have emotional awareness from a young age, so that when emotional conflicts arise they are unequipped to properly deal with their emotional needs.
These conflicts grow because instead of being dealt with, they are ignored or pushed out of awareness until the point that they explode with reactions such as anger, depression, or anxiety. This is my basic view of emotional conflicts.
Psychiatrists and other medical doctors, on the other hand, beginning with their medical school training, are taught a different view of the origins of emotional conflicts. Instead of considering environmental factors such as social class, education, family dynamics, or histories of abuse and neglect, psychiatrists are trained to look for biological diseases, birth defects, and now genetic factors that lead to mental illness.
The problem is that it is almost impossible to determine biological diseases of the mind as well as genetic factors leading to mental illness. Determining birth defects is a relatively simple procedure that requires developmental testing but is often limited to diagnosis of mental retardation or autism.
Therefore most medically trained mental health professionals are operating under a belief that they have the ability to make a diagnosis for which logic dictates they do not.
Now we come to the point of understanding the true role of psychiatric medications. Psychiatric medications, like all medication or drugs, have the effect of adding or preventing a biological function to create some other function. Therefore to add a drug to the body one must make the assumption that their current state is not perfect and needs to be changed.
When clients ask me if I am in favor of psychiatric medications being prescribed my answer is, “I would rather have you on drugs than kill yourself or hurt someone else, but aside from those two extremes I see psychiatric medication as a last line of defense only necessary when you are completely out of control and unable to endure painful feelings that if comprehended could help you.”
On principle I am not against drugs, my concern is that drugs need to be used as a tool or crutch to overcome an illness and never as the long term solution. But most psychiatrists do not agree, and this is why psychiatric medication is the main form of mental health treatment in our country today. In this way, psychiatrists and other doctors who prescribe psychiatric drugs deny their clients the opportunity to listen to and learn from their emotional conflicts.
Psychiatric drugs are extremely over prescribed, so much so that it is an epidemic. Furthermore, there is the additional severe problem of psychiatric drugs being misused or abused by clients.
In fact I have never seen a client follow the recommendations of their psychiatrist completely, suggesting a huge epidemic of psychiatric drug abuse in our country. Drug abuse that is sanctioned by both doctors and clients alike, and drug abuse that denies the body the natural method of danger awareness that can lead to a resolution.
When a drug addict comes to me and says he has used because of stress in his life I try to help him or her become aware of fact that there are better ways to understand and deal with their emotional pain. The same is true to Psychiatric drug users.
So, is it safe to say that the vast majority of Psychiatric drug users in or country today are willing or unwilling drug abusers? I am afraid so.
Just as cigarette smoking was an unquestioned and popular activity in our country until the 1990s when mass lawsuits helped to reveal the true harm of cigarette smoke, so too will psychiatric medications one day be recognized as an archaic and misguided period of our country’s medical history.
Dr. Sarton Weinraub is a psychologist in private practice in New York City and an advocate against the over prescription of psychiatric drugs. He runs the New York Person Centered Resource Center.
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Last reviewed: 12 Jan 2012