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.
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