Archive for March, 2024

What Is Medication Management (and is it the right choice for you)?

Scene: You’re in a therapy session, and your therapist asks if you’ve ever considered trying medication to help with your anxiety, depression, ADHD, or [insert diagnosis here]. And sure, you’ve thought about it, but you haven’t done much more than that because you aren’t really sure how, when or why medication might help. Should you consider taking medication for your mental health symptoms? How would it help? 

These are just a couple of the many questions people ask when deciding whether to add medication management to their mental health treatment plan. Taking medication can feel like a big decision, and for good reason: psychiatric medications (or any medication, for that matter) can have unpredictable side effects, and it’s often impossible to know how well they will work, or if they will work at all, until you’ve been taking them for several weeks. 

For many people, however, adding medication management to their mental health treatment plan can be a game-changer. So let’s unpack the what, why, and when of medication management, to help you determine whether it might be worth considering. 

What is medication management?

Because the vast majority of therapists are not able to prescribe medications, they have to refer their clients elsewhere for the medication aspect of their mental health treatment. That other provider – typically a psychiatric nurse practitioner or psychiatrist, but physician’s assistants, family medical doctors and pediatricians can also prescribe these medications – is then responsible for determining which medications to prescribe, ensuring the medications are working as they are supposed to, and checking to make sure there are no intolerable negative side effects. This is what we refer to as medication management. 

At LynLake, we have a team of medication management providers, all of whom specialize in psychiatric medications. Your LynLake therapist may refer you to one of these providers, or you can reach out to our referrals team to schedule an appointment with one of our medication management providers, even if you are not currently seeing a LynLake therapist. The provider will ask about your symptoms, your overall health, your treatment goals, and gather any additional background information they feel is important in order to determine which medications to prescribe. If you also see a therapist, your medication management provider may ask to communicate with the therapist, to get their impression as to which medications might be most beneficial, and to check in later on to see if the therapist is noticing any improvements or, conversely, any side effects.

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Why should I consider medication management?

Deciding whether to take psychiatric medication is a personal decision and one you should weigh carefully, just like you would for any medication. That said, many people find that medication improves their daily functioning by reducing the intensity of their symptoms. For example, for people suffering from depression characterized by difficulty getting out of bed, low energy and no motivation, medication has the potential to reduce or even eliminate these symptoms, giving people the ability to get through each day more easily. For people struggling with agoraphobia, as another example, medication can reduce the likelihood of experiencing a panic attack or other anxiety symptoms, so they aren’t paralyzed with fear every time they think about leaving the house. 

Of course, no medication works for everyone, and some people struggle to find any medication that works well for them. But with ongoing advances in medicine, even if you haven’t had success with psychiatric medication in the past, it may be worth asking your provider if any new treatment options exist. 

Many people also find that adding medications to regular therapy seems to make therapy more effective. One way to think of medication is like water wings: if you’re having trouble just keeping your head above water, learning how to swim might seem impossible. Water wings keep you afloat so that you can practice your strokes without having to worry about drowning. Medication can help keep you afloat while your therapist helps you learn how to swim. This also means that some people (though not everyone) are able to stop taking medication after making some necessary changes and implementing the skills they learned in therapy. 

When should I consider medication management?

There is probably no single answer to the question of when you should consider medication management. Some people much prefer taking medication over going to therapy, which means the answer for them might be different than for someone who views medication management as a last resort sort of thing. Generally speaking, however, medication management is probably something to consider if your mental health symptoms are so debilitating that you are not able to function as you need to in your everyday life, if they are creating problems in your job, at school, in your relationships, with your finances, if they are negative affecting your physical health, if you are having thoughts of harming yourself, or if you are already engaging in self-harm behaviors.  

Another reason to consider medication management is if you have been in therapy for several months or longer, and you aren’t seeing improvements in your symptoms or functioning. You are doing the work, engaging in the therapy sessions, making the recommended changes in your sleep, diet and exercise, but you still feel depressed, anxious, etc. Or maybe you simply don’t have the energy, motivation, or clear-headedness that you would need in order to make those changes. If that is your situation, taking medication – even if just for a brief period of time – might give you the boost you need to implement those changes you’ve been talking about with your therapist. 

What if I really don’t want to – or I can’t – take medications? 

There are plenty of people who are unwilling or unable to take psychiatric medications, and maybe you are one of those people. Some people belong to religious faiths that prohibit taking medications. Some people want to pursue more natural interventions (e.g., supplements, cannabis, acupuncture, etc). And for some people, their bodies seem dead set against pharmaceuticals, reacting to all of them with significant side effects and little or no benefits. 

If you are someone who is unwilling or unable to take pharmaceutical medications for your mental health symptoms, there are alternatives you may want to consider. Functional medicine is an approach to physical and mental health that focuses on identifying the underlying cause(s) of your symptom(s) and then tailoring interventions to address that root cause. Acupuncture, Reiki, Craniosacral Therapy, Yoga Therapy, and Therapeutic Massage are also non-pharmaceutical approaches to mental health that can boost the effects of psychotherapy, which is why we offer those services at LynLake, in addition to medication management. These are just a few of the non-pharmaceutical options available for people who do not want to take medications, who are unable to, or who have had little to no success with them. 

If you are interested in learning more about medication management and whether it can help you, be sure to speak with your therapist. Or you can contact our referrals team directly to ask about setting up an appointment with one of your medication management providers. 

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Written by: Terri Bly, PsyD, LP, Licensed Clinical Psychologist

8 Reasons to Start Couples Therapy That May Surprise You

Most of us know that couples therapy is a resource to consider if you and your partner find yourselves arguing all the time and don’t know what to do about it. Most people also think about seeking professional help if there’s been an affair. But these are far from the only reasons to see a couples therapist. In fact, most couples therapists would probably prefer that couples seek out their services before things get to the breaking point. Relationship therapy can be a wonderful way to strengthen an already healthy and loving partnership, because let’s face it: no relationship is perfect, seeing as none of us in relationships are perfect. A skilled couples therapist can go a long way to helping you and your partner work through these issues and come out the other side with newfound energy and desire to invest in the relationship. 

Here are 8 great reasons to consider relationship or couples therapy*:

1. You want to learn how to argue better.

For whatever reason, few of us grew up with positive role models for conflict resolution. Maybe we learned that fighting often leads to harm or rejection, or our parents never argued in front of us, preferring to either stuff down their disagreements or save them for when the kids weren’t around. Maybe we grew up with only one parent who didn’t have many relationships while we were living at home. Whatever the reasons, many of us enter into our own relationships feeling ill-equipped to resolve arguments in a healthy and constructive way. Moreover, we tend to partner with people whose experiences with conflict are different from our own. A couples therapist can help you and your partner understand how your early experiences of conflict inform your approaches to it now, and then help you replace those unhelpful early learning experiences with constructive, effective strategies that will not only strengthen your relationship, but will help you model healthy conflict resolution for your own kids (should you have any). 

2. You are stuck on a specific issue or decision.

Oftentimes in a long-term relationship, situations arise in which you and your partner need to make a joint decision, but you are struggling to get on the same page. The stakes feel high and neither of you believes compromise is the way to go. Examples that come to mind are things like having kids (or more kids), moving to a different part of the country for a job opportunity, or buying a bigger house. When situations like these come up, and you and your partner are far from reaching an agreement, it may be a good idea to bring a professional in to help you talk through what’s at stake, your respective reasons behind your position on the issue, and what you each need from each other in order to come to a decision you both feel good about. 

3. You don’t know how to stay emotionally regulated when talking about certain topics.

Certain topics – for example, money, sex, and parenting – seem to bring out bigger feelings than others, which means that even a couple that typically can stay calm while working through differences may suddenly find themselves entangled in an out-of-control fight, or shutting down completely, and nothing ever gets resolved. A couples therapist can help you lower the emotional temperature in the room by teaching both of you skills for regulating your emotions, as well as the communication skills you need when venturing into hot button topics. They can also help you figure out what it is about these topics that is so triggering for each of you, so that you can work through it (possibly in individual therapy) and be able to separate your own past trauma and painful experiences from those in your current relationship. 

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4. It feels like your partner has changed and you’re not sure you like it (and maybe they say the same thing about you).

People change. Values, goals, health (physical and mental), desires, needs, all of these can – and often do – change over time. This means the person you met 5, 10, or 20 years ago has likely changed in ways you didn’t predict and may not necessarily appreciate. Conversely, one person might feel like they have changed while their partner seemingly hasn’t changed at all, which can leave them feeling like they have “outgrown” the relationship. This can be a particularly scary thought process to navigate, since your partner hasn’t necessarily done anything wrong, and yet, you find yourself wondering if it’s still a good match. Couples therapy is a great way to approach this difficult phase of the relationship by helping you and your partner understand the ways in which each of you has (or has not) changed, and then figuring out if there are ways to approach these differences that don’t necessitate calling it quits. 

5. The relationship feels stuck in a rut.

No relationship is unicorns and rainbows all day, every day. Add jobs, kids, money stress, a pandemic, or just the mundaneness of daily life to the mix, and a couple can end up feeling more like roommates than lovers. Couples therapy is a great space for identifying how the spark you once had got snuffed out, and then help you reignite it. 

6. There’s been a breach of trust (and we’re not just talking about infidelity).

Affairs aren’t the only way a person can betray their partner. Gambling, hidden substance use issues, secret purchases, or simply lying to your partner repeatedly: all of these can create serious breaches of trust in a partnership. If left unaddressed, resentment and contempt can foment within the relationship, making it increasingly difficult to repair the damage as time goes on. Couples therapy, especially if the therapist is brought in soon after the betrayal is discovered, can help mitigate the damage by getting to the underlying causes of the betrayal, and then helping the couple create a plan for healing and rebuilding trust. 

7. Your differences are becoming a problem.

It has often been observed that the traits we are drawn to in a partner are the very same aspects of the person that drive us crazy later on. You fell in love with your partner because they were calm and stable, and now it just feels like they’re boring and predictable. Or you were drawn to their intensity and creative spirit, but now they just seem emotionally unstable and impractical. You enjoyed being the “planner” at the beginning of the relationship, but now you wish your partner would step up and make things happen once in a while. While this relationship phenomenon is about as normal as it gets, that doesn’t make it less frustrating, nor is it always clear what to do about your grievances. A couples therapist can help each of you figure out what it is about these differences that is getting under your skin, then help each of you determine which of your partner’s traits are truly damaging to the relationship, and which ones may require a reframe on your part so that they don’t bother you so much.

8. You want help navigating a non-traditional relationship structure.

Not everyone is in a “traditional” two-person, monogamous relationship. And yet, most of the information and services out there are geared toward couples who identify as monogamous, which can make it difficult to know what to do when you want help addressing issues in your non-traditional relationship. You may worry (with good reason) that the therapist will judge the relationship structure as the problem, and thus won’t be able to help you and your partner(s) get to the root of the actual issues you want to address. Fortunately, more and more therapists are getting trained in how to provide competent, non-judgmental therapy for people in these kinds of relationship structures (including therapists here at LynLake). 

Couples therapy is about investing in your relationship. Like anything we value and want to last, a relationship requires time and attention, and sometimes that means overcoming the discomfort you may feel at the idea of letting a 3rd party in on your relationship struggles. But the right relationship therapist can be a true game-changer, so if you think you and your partner(s) may benefit from relationship therapy, we would encourage you to complete our intake form at LynLake Centers for Wellbeing today, to get started on the path to a stronger relationship. We offer relationship and couples therapy at both our Minneapolis and St. Paul locations. 

*While this blog often mentions “partner” in the singular, please note that we recognize some people have more than one partner, and while the issues that arise in polyamorous relationships may overlap in many areas with two-person partnerships, they also present their own unique dynamics. We plan to address some of these in a future post, so stay tuned!