Integrative Psychiatry: Why Medications Are Only a Piece of the Puzzle

Integrative medicine is by definition a multidisciplinary approach that combines conventional treatments with alternative therapies.  Integrative psychiatry considers both the mental and physical…the mind as well as the body.  When evaluating psychiatric symptoms it is important to examine biological, psychological, social, and spiritual problems.  This integration is achieved by taking a close look at each aspect of the self, and moving toward a “harmonious whole.”  Understanding the flow and exchange between all of the systems within us is the key to healing; the process is unique to every individual.  Integrative psychiatry develops an individualized health plan through psychopharmacology, psychotherapy, coaching, nutrition, exercise, sleep, and alternative methods such as acupuncture and naturopathic medicine.  It also supports your own resilience and innate healing responses.

How long should I wait before seeking help?

The earlier problems are addressed, the easier it is to treat symptoms into remission and prevent relapse of symptoms in the future. In psychiatry there is a concept called “kindling.”  It is a metaphor that illustrates the reaction of the nervous system in psychiatric disorders. Similar to kindling to a fire, where small twigs can produce a large fire, seemingly insignificant and intermittent mental health disturbances can lead to larger, more persistent problems down the road. 

When should I consider medications?

Many symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions are normal reactions to life circumstances.  Medications should be considered when these symptoms significantly alter your ability to perform daily activities.

For example, you should consult with a health care provider if you find that you are consistently unable to fall asleep at night because you are up late worrying, or that a significant decrease in motivation and concentration is causing problems at work.

Medication will fix everything, right?

Wrong. While medications are a useful tool, they are not the whole picture.  Research has indicated that medication is most effective in combination with other treatments, such as psychotherapy.  Medications can address physiologic causes of symptoms, however they do not target physical, social, environmental, or psychological factors.  This is why an integrative approach to psychiatric care is so important.  Medications are one piece in assisting you in bringing yourself back to your “whole.”