By Laura Petiford PMHNP, LMFT

It’s interesting.  Since I have completed my training as a nurse practitioner with a specialty in psychiatry enabling me to prescribe medication, I’ve become less inclined to see medication as a first grab solution.  In some respects, this isn’t surprising based upon my background as a marriage and family therapist. MFT as a field is known to eschew medication exalting therapy almost to the level of panacea. But my experience taught me differently.  There were times when I saw medication absolutely open up a life of possibility when before there had been no options. And is most often the case in life, the utility of medication isn’t an all or nothing proposition but rather somewhere in the middle. So how do you know if YOU would benefit?

You have thoughts that life isn’t worth living.

This is the number one reason to consider medication. Nothing is more important than your safety. If you are experiencing thoughts that the world would be better off if you weren’t around, it’s time to consider medication.  Notice, I say consider.  It could be meeting with a therapist to talk on a regularly basis would be enough to pull you out of this line of skewed thinking.  But if the thoughts have moved to planning, even if you have no intention of acting on the plan, it’s time for medication.  Again, nothing is more important than your safety.

You’ve tried therapy and the results aren’t what you or your therapist hoped.

If you have been steadfastly addressing your thoughts and behaviors for 3 months with little to no relief from symptoms that are sucking the joy from your life, it’s time to consider medication. Notice again, I said consider. It doesn’t mean you have to or “should.” It means it’s worth taking a look to see if the benefits of taking medication outweigh the costs.  Your list of both will be unique so there isn’t a formulaic answer. At this juncture, you owe it to yourself to consider another option and that includes the use of medication.

You can’t stop wondering if medication might make your life better.

I believe unresolved questions are worth checking out. If you have a persistent question about whether or not you would benefit from being on a medication, I encourage you to make an appointment with a word of mouth referred clinician to help you get a handle on that question. Please chose your clinician carefully. While choosing a random name off the list your insurance panel provides can quantify how much you will pay in dollars, it does nothing to let you know what your experience will be. You don’t want to become another nail to someone’s hammer. Ask your friends who they use or go on a website like to do your own research.  And be prepared to hear the answer “no.”

Psychiatric medication can be a welcome balm to a mind in need of healing. It can enhance the work required to become whole whether that’s a return to wellness or a destination set for the first time. Working with a clinician who will make a careful assessment in collaboration with you is the best way to find out if it’s right for you.