Published: March 9, 2011
As “Talk Doesn’t Pay, So Psychiatry Turns Instead to Drug Therapy” (“Doctors Inc.” series, front page, March 6) noted, decades of research have shown that psychotherapy, now eschewed for financial reasons by many practicing psychiatrists, is often as effective as psychotropic drugs — if not more so, as in the treatment for depression.
There is something inherently wrong with a health care system that allows a practitioner to earn more for three 15-minute prescription-writing sessions than for a 45-minute therapy session that teaches patients lifelong coping skills and has no adverse physical side effects.
What is of great concern with the current treatment situation, driven in large measure by the pharmaceutical and health insurance industries, is the diminished quality of care provided to patients. While many of the new psychotropic drugs have proved effective, taking a pill is not always the answer to a mental health problem.
I was heartened to read that Dr. Donald Levin recommends that his patients see a psychologist for psychotherapy, in addition to receiving medications from him. But I must take issue with the article’s statement that psychologists “can often afford to charge less” than psychiatrists because they did not go to medical school.
To earn a doctorate in health service psychology, one must complete five to seven years of graduate academic and clinical work, including a yearlong supervised internship — a rigorous regimen on a par with medical school.
More important, psychotherapy is often the treatment of choice, and it is a travesty that the current health care system promotes medication over psychotherapy regardless of what is in the best interest of the patient.