I have both a psychiatrist and a therapist. I was recently diagnosed with bipolar type I. I am not going to lie, I resent my diagnosis and I sometimes wonder if it's accurate. But what matters the most is my treatment plan, not a word in the DSM-V. I'm working as hard as I can to live a fulfilling and happy life. That's the goal and I'm sticking to it. 

There isn't one way to treat mental illness. You could have a therapist or a psychiatrist or both! There isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to treating mental health issues. I find that having both in my life is a great balance. There are also psychiatrists who do talk therapy as well. You could potentially have a "two-in-one" situation. That's ideal because then you don't have to go to two people.

If you do go to a separate psychiatrist and therapist, it's a good idea to have them sign a consent form so that they can talk to one another. That way your everyone on your treatment team is on the same page. Your therapist might notice something that your psychiatrist doesn't pick up on or vice versa. 

I remember one time, my therapist noticed that I was more depressed than usual. She suggested that I should talk to my doctor about adjusting my medication. I was so glad she said something because I didn't notice that I was slipping into a depressive episode. Because of her observation, I was able to get my medication changed and I started to feel better over time. That's the annoying thing about psychiatric medications, they take a period of time to start working. That means you have to utilize patience, which I don't have a whole lot of. 

People who don't have chronic mental health issues such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder seem to be able to exclusively see a therapist. For example, a person who isn't on psychiatric medication but may experience intermittent periods of either anxiety or depression would be someone who just saw a therapist. 

I've heard people talk about how "everyone is on something these days," and by "something" they mean psychiatric medication. This is a vast generalization, and we cannot know what someone's treatment plan is unless you ask that person and they are willing to share that information with you. 

I don't work for "big pharma" and I have no incentive to advise you to start investigating or taking psychiatric medications. I will say that if you are experiencing chronic mental health issues that are impacting your quality of life and you're already in therapy, talk to your therapist about consulting with a psychiatrist. Then you can determine if medication is right for you. And it may NOT be; you might find that therapy alone is enough to treat depression and anxiety.

CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy) is a great modality of therapy that helps people with depression explore and debunk their negative thoughts. If you're not interested in taking medication for depression, you can look for a therapist who specializes in CBT. That person may be able to help you combat negative thinking and your quality of life will likely improve.

Each person has their own path to coping with mental health issues. You will find yours, but it may take some time to get there. Try to be patient and loving with yourself, just as you would with a good friend. There is hope out there. 

Unsplash 2017
Source: Unsplash 2017

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