VIDEO: Frank Anderson on Bridging the Chasm between Psychotherapy and Psychiatry

How to Discuss Meds with Your Clients

Frank Anderson

Of all the professionals one might see for biological and psychological issues, it’s psychotherapists who are usually on the front lines of treatment, trained to spot and assess everything from changes in mood to unusual physical reactions. But given all their expertise, why don’t more psychotherapists make judgment calls when it comes to medication? And why do so many therapists show only a perfunctory interest in the ups and downs of their clients’ reactions to psychiatric medications?

According to Frank Anderson, a dual psychotherapist–prescriber, many talk therapists don’t think they’re well-informed enough to talk about medication, despite the fact that they’re plenty able to make judgment calls about whether a med is working or not.

In the following video clip with Networker Editor Rich Simon, Anderson explains the fears that many therapists have about studying the intersection of psychology and biology, and what we can do about it. Take a look for yourself and share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Frank Anderson, MD, is a psychiatrist as well as a psychotherapist. He’s the executive director of the Foundation for Self Leadership and a supervisor at the Trauma Center at Justice Resource Institute.

Anderson, a strong proponent of Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS), says that one of the therapist's best tools for working with clients who may need medication is an awareness of their own fears and biases surrounding meds. “Therapists need to be aware of the parts of themselves that get activated when they have to deal with this intersection of prescribing and psychotherapy,” he says. “They need to bring the same internal curiosity and focus to psychopharmacology with clients that they would in discussing any other clinical issue.”

Another essential approach, Anderson adds, is a simple but important one: ask your clients questions and be an empathic listener. "These are the essential components to the success of any medication trial,” he says. “But the connection between therapy and psychopharmacology" he adds, "remains a largely untapped world.”


Did you enjoy this video clip? You might also enjoy Anderson's article, "Beyond Chemistry," in which he explains the importance of asking clients about their relationship with medication before they take it, which he argues greatly assesses its potential efficacy. Or check out Anderson's "Responding to Extreme Trauma Symptoms," in which he explains how neuroscience can offer practical guidance when working with trauma survivors.

Topic: Psychopharmacology

Tags: psychotherapist | psychotherapists | psychotherapy | success | therapist | therapists | therapy | Mood Problems | psychiatrist | clinical psychopharmacology | medication | prescription medication | psychopharmacological

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014 4:41:08 PM | posted by Ginger Bahardar
It is interesting to talk about how we " feel" about psycho pharmaceuticals. As opposed to thinking rationally. I try to keep up with the latest research, especially research that is not funded by pharmaceutical companies. I think about the theory of how different drugs act in the brain. I think about side effects. I think about what happens with long term usage of the drugs. This is not about how I feel , at all. When I make a thoughtful decision about weighing the benefits and risks, I am thinking, not feeling.
I know that the human body and the human brain and mind are very complex systems, that we are beginning to understand. This is what brings a rational decision to be very careful with prescription drugs . When we know that less risky interventions work, isn't it rational to try that first? Unless there is some kind of life threatening emergency?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014 3:27:20 PM | posted by Lynn Johnson
My feeling about medication: Over-rated. Evidence is there is a very small effect from antidepressants. Low-dose antipsychotics have terrible side effects, weight gain, insulin resistance and even type 2 diabetes . . . We should be caution. It isn't irrational.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014 2:52:35 PM | posted by Avraham Cohen
Mr. Anderson seems to be blissfully ignorant of the research that shows the incredible and permanent damage caused by many of these medications. He further develops a 'straw man' about therapist fears and ignorance about medications and then proceeds to tear it down. I have seen these effects over years with individuals with whom I have worked. This is not to say that short-term and judicious use of some medications is not helpful to some to help them get over a hump, but the assumption that imbalances in brain chemistry is the cause of problems rather than an inevitable outcome of years of anxiety based on flawed personal experiences from earliest days is to miss the fact that developmental processes that are disrupted is a huge factor is to miss the whole point of working in depth and breadth with humans who are suffering.
Mr. Anderson comes off to me as a minion for the pharmaceutical industry.