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K. Smythe's picture

Psychotherapy and the brain


Today’s discussion really made me think about the advantages of both drug and psychotherapeutic treatments.  While drugs may offer a quicker result than psychotherapy (always a factor in today’s “instant gratification” society) we also must consider that because there is still so much we don’t know about the brain we can’t be exactly sure what other effects they will have on us.  However, sometimes we do need fast results.  In the end though, I think I would side with Dr. Yadin in regards to treatment- let’s try to use what we already have first, especially if psychotherapy creates a longer, more permanent effect.   

We also didn’t really talk discuss the effectiveness of drugs, therapy and a combination thereof (are drugs often prescribed without associated psychotherapy for anxiety disorders?).  I’d really like to see statistics of both “success” rates from psychologists and patient satisfaction.  Are patients more satisfied with a quicker result or is the actual act of fixing your mental glitch with your own machinery more rewarding?

Another aspect of psychotherapy that I found myself thinking about involves the importance of mental/psychological adaptation.  I recently wrote a paper for another of professor Grobstein’s classes that I am in, regarding therapy versus drug treatment for disorders such as PTSD.  One idea I brought up there that seems to relate to this issue is the possible importance of working through things ourselves.  Is it important, or evolutionarily adaptive on some level, for our personal development, our future mental health or some other factor, that we deal with these things through our mental capacities rather than through a “quick fix” like drugs?  Is the use of simple medication in contrast to more intense and long term psychotherapy actually depriving us of a positive developmental factor?

One issue I found particularly interesting in our discussion is the idea of our behavior and conversations outside of a clinical setting as psychotherapy.  I had never really thought of this before but it makes a lot of sense.  When I have a problem I know I always feel better hashing it out with someone or taking time off for myself.  Obviously a trained professional is helpful/necessary in some situations but it is interesting to think of ourselves as self medicated, or rather self treated, in that we do what a psychologist would, only in a less obvious way.

Another topic I was wondering a bit about is that of psychotherapy as an alternative or additional treatment for other more physical diseases (i.e. cancer, chronic pain etc.).  It seems to me that thought and mental state are quite important in our physical as well as mental wellbeing, but I don’t actually know if psychotherapy in conjuncture with another treatment for those types of diseases would make that treatment more effective.  Guess I’ll have to check it out.

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