Right. I didn’t think so.
Psychologists are trying to capitalize on that sentiment with an ad campaign launched last week that parodies these annoying TV spots and promotes a more drug-free approach to treating depression and anxiety — psychotherapy.
Antidepressants and anxiety drugs have become the most popular way to treat these problems over the last 10 years. True, many people shy away from talk therapy and find the idea of popping a pill more attractive. No muss no fuss. But it’s also cheaper for insurance companies to pay for an occasional visit to a primary care physician who will prescribe a medication for the problem rather than a course of talk therapy sessions that may go on weekly for months.
Psychiatrists don’t have time for psychotherapy and are more likely to pull out a prescription pad during a 15-minute visit than ask a patient to stretch out on an office couch and ask: “How does that make you feel?”
Lamenting the trend, a psychiatrist told The New York Times last year: “I miss the mystery and intrigue of psychotherapy. Now I feel like a good Volkswagen mechanic.”
So, the nuts and bolts of feeling better by discussing life’s problems have been left to psychologists, clinical social workers and professional counselors. They say that it actually does work, and there’s research to back them up.
“We get a lot of information about drug therapy from commercials and pop culture, but we hear much less about the alternatives,” said Katherine Nordal, director of professional practice at the American Psychological Association. She noted that medication can be an appropriate part of treatment for mental disorders, but “people should know that psychotherapy works.”
Most studies have shown that talk therapy at least rivals drug therapy. In a 2004 survey published by Consumer Reports, respondents said treatment that was “mostly talk” had better outcomes than treatment that was mostly medication. The consensus seemed to be that drugs had led to quicker improvement, but psychotherapy resulted in more long-term improvement.
Other studies have shown that a combination of drug and talk therapy is a one-two punch that works best.
Back to the psychologists’ ad campaign: The APA is trying to draw attention to the issue with a series of wacky animated videos focusing on a fictional “miracle drug” called “Fixitol.” The videos are available on an APA website and on YouTube.
“Did you know that more and more Americans are stressed, anxious and depressed?” an announcer asks. “But now there’s a cure! Ask your doctor about Fixitol, the pill you take once that takes care of all these concerns.”
That’s followed by another voice-over that talks about the benefits of psychotherapy, although noting that it’s not really “a miracle cure.”
The campaign, called: Psychotherapy: More Than a Quick Fix, is detailed on the APA website Psychotherapy Works. It’s part of a continuing effort by mental health professionals to maintain their niche in a world where immediate success is preferred by payors in order to cut costs and increase profits. Such is the American health care system.
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Following up on my post of Aug. 17 (Hazards here, there and everywhere), Consumer Reports just published an analysis of arsenic levels in rice products and found “worrisome levels” of the carcinogen in everything from baby food to cereal.
“In virtually every product tested, we found measurable amounts of total arsenic in its two forms,” CR said. “We found significant levels of inorganic arsenic, which is a carcinogen, in almost every product category, along with organic arsenic, which is less toxic but still of concern.”
People who have eaten rice have an arsenic level 44 percent higher than those who have not eaten it.
The USA Rice Federation calls the article “incomplete and inaccurate” and contends that rice absorbs arsenic from the environment naturally. The organization produced a new website dedicated to the issue: http://www.arsenicfacts.usarice.com.
But the real culprit may be arsenic and other contaminants that are dumped into the environment by corporate agriculture, which feeds arsenic to chickens to control disease and give that delightful pinkish hue to the meat.
Agricultural interests may be right in asserting that levels of cancer-causing chemicals like arsenic are at levels too low to cause a problem after a nice big bowl of, let’s say, chicken-rice soup. But after years of exposure you have to wonder what it might be doing to our health over the long haul.
Graphic by Mike Licht, Notions Capital via Flickr.com