Two brains are better than one

Written by Teana Elmer

I’m sure you’ve heard that saying before, and I think it applies perfectly to the fields of psychiatry and psychology. When a psychiatrist and psychologist work collaboratively by sharing information about their patient, a greater picture is presented, for both clinicians,  to make a more informed assessment and treatment approach. The same holds true when medication and psychotherapies are combined when indicated.

Sadly, I cannot tell you how many times I have heard someone say, “I feel comfortable doing therapy, but NO WAY am I taking medications,” or “I don’t need to talk to someone, just let me take a pill and be done with it.” If you’ve found yourself saying either of these, don’t be alarmed, you are not alone. In fact, before I started studying psychiatry, I found myself thinking along those same lines. Mental Health has been shrouded in a cloud of stigma for many years. We have come a long way in the past 10 years by creating a more open dialogue, but our journey to a better understanding of mental health, among the general population, is far from over. The negative view of mental health still affects how people approach their care today.

Many psychiatric treatment protocols include psychotherapy as an important and complementary part of the treatment program. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is considered the first line of treatment for borderline personality disorder. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), alongside the administration of an SSRI, has been shown to improve outcomes in comparison of utilizing one or the other in those suffering from depression and anxiety. PTSD is another great example of how the use of both provides greater success for the patient. Oftentimes, pharmacological approaches are treating the comorbidities of PTSD (Anxiety, depression) and psychological approaches are targeting the core symptoms of PTSD (Stahl, 2013). There is even growing research for the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy among those who suffer with schizophrenia. Research has shown that in utilizing psychotherapy as part of the treatment, the antipsychotic medication is then leveraged to its fullest potential (Stahl, 2013).

This may sound scary to someone worried about taking medications or baring their soul to a therapist they just met, but I like to think of it as having two brains, literally and metaphorically, working together to get you back to your fullest potential.


Stahl, S.M. (2013). Stahl’s Essential Psychopharmacology (4th ed.). Cambridge, United Kingdom: University Printing House

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