Psychiatry Turning Away from Talk to Prescription-Dispensing

This lengthy feature in theNew York Times is a fascinating look into psychotherapy in our medicated, over-insured age:


"Medicine is rapidly changing in the United States from a cottage industry to one dominated by large hospital groups and corporations, but the new efficiencies can be accompanied by a telling loss of intimacy between doctors and patients. And no specialty has suffered this loss more profoundly than psychiatry"

It's actually quite sad, too. The story as details the way that because these changes to insurance politices and so on have made it harder for therapists to continue making the same amount of money simply doing "talk therapy"--so many instead see patients in 15 minute intervals and dispense a cocktail of antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. Sometimes they refer patients for talk therapy to cheaper psychologists. 



The switch from talk therapy to medications has swept psychiatric practices and hospitals, leaving many older psychiatrists feeling unhappy and inadequate. A 2005 government survey found that just 11 percent of psychiatrists provided talk therapy to all patients, a share that had been falling for years and has most likely fallen more since. Psychiatric hospitals that once offered patients months of talk therapy now discharge them within days with only pills.


The story profiles a therapist who has undergone the transition, who says he misses the challenge and the intrigue of talk therapy, and has to distance himself from patients, emotionally--but feels he has no other choice. Once, the story suggets, therapist tried to help patients become truly fulfilled, now it's about medications that keep them functioning. One has to ask what the broader ramifications are for a society that's more depressed, more medicated, and less listened-to.

Read the full story at the Times.

AlterNet / By Sarah Seltzer

Posted at March 7, 2011, 4:22am

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