DEAR ABBY: A reader asked how a person can tell if psychiatry is "working." We would like to offer some suggestions.
The patient or client should have a specific plan for recovery. The therapist -- a clinical social worker, psychologist, psychiatrist, or marriage and family therapist -- should teach coping skills so the person can assemble a "coping toolbox." Patients should expect to do behavioral homework between counseling sessions.
Sometimes medication is needed; often it is not. Most uncomplicated depression and anxiety problems respond favorably within 10 to 20 sessions. Additional complicating factors may extend the number of sessions, but by the 20th session the person should see definite improvement.
Just "talking about" problems is helpful, but not usually enough to make and maintain changes. It is also not generally helpful to focus ONLY on the past/childhood when the problems are occurring today. Therapists and clients can be sure that goals are being met by assessing behavior and emotional changes at regular intervals.
We hope this information is helpful. -- ERIK J. ABELL, PH.D., GAIL SIMPSON, MSW, LCSW, COSTA MESA, CALIF.
DEAR DR. ABELL AND MS. SIMPSON: Thank you for lending your expertise to answer this often-asked question. People who are emotionally vulnerable are not always in the best position to evaluate their own progress. I'm sure your letter will be appreciated by many readers.