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Drug vs. Talk Therapy for Depression

Survey Shows Antidepressants' Side Effects More Common Than Package Labels Indicate

Many Routes to Good Care continued...

Important note: Under the American Disabilities Act, an employer cannot discriminate against an employee getting mental health care, Metcalf adds. "There are also restrictions as far as how much information your therapist can turn over. Your health care plan knows about drugs you are taking, and very generally about your condition. But they do not have access to personal notes made by your doctor -- the most private information. That is legally protected."

Also encouraging is "there has been a lot of effort in the last five or 10 years to bring primary care doctors up to speed about depression, and either treat [patients] or refer them to a mental health professional," Metcalf says. "The most important point is to get help somewhere ... and get it promptly."

Many types of mental health professionals can provide excellent therapy, she notes. The survey showed that whether they saw a psychiatrist, a psychologist, or a social worker, patients had equally good results. How to choose your therapist? "It's largely personal preference," Metcalf tells WebMD. "Just keep in mind, if you go to see a psychiatrist, you are much more likely to get medication. Psychologists and social workers provide talk therapy ... and they can be more cost-effective if you pay out of pocket, which many of our respondents did."

"Many insurers refuse to allow psychiatrists to do anything but prescribe drugs, except for the most severely ill patients," notes Bruce Schwartz, MD, in the report. He is associate professor of clinical psychiatry at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City and one of two consultants who helped design the survey and interpret the results.


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