“Medication” and “mental illness”: Two terms that evoke a broad range of emotions. Some people view pharmaceuticals as an effective solution while others are wary of overmedication, particularly in children.
Stevenson, Waplak & Associates (SWA) follows a holistic approach that considers medications alongside other possible types of treatment. “Medications are just one possible intervention: Not the first, and not the last,” said Jeff Waplak, clinical director for Stevenson, Waplak & Associates.
“Our goal is to create a treatment plan that works,” he said, explaining that SWA doesn’t write prescriptions but works with doctors to provide a balanced approach. “Our focus is on clinical treatment and overall management. We also understand that treatment plans need to be integrated. Nothing happens in isolation.”
Types of treatment
When someone first comes to SWA for help, they are led through an assessment process that helps clarify their symptoms. Once a specific problem has been identified, the clinical team can take steps to address that issue.
There are a variety of ways to approach mental health issues, including individual or group therapy, routine or lifestyle adjustments, assessing vitamins and hormones, and medications.
“One of the first things we ask is, what environmental interventions we can use?” explained Waplak, noting that addressing factors like nutrition and coping skills can often be enough to manage symptoms.
“Medications can help an individual get through a difficult period while they’re learning the skills to manage the problem on their own, a bit like training wheels,” he added. “Sometimes, they’re the best solution because there is nothing else that’s reasonably available or proven to work.”
Deciding when to medicate: Metrics
Different mental health disorders can cause vastly different symptoms. Whatever the approach, every SWA treatment plan considers how to target specific symptoms and transparently measure results.
“Different strategies work for different people,” said Waplak. “Measuring impact helps us determine what works and what doesn’t for a particular person; if something doesn’t help manage the targeted symptoms, we’ll try something else.”
This means that medications are only included in a treatment plan as long as they’re having a positive impact, Waplak notes. “We’ll generally set three very specific targets that the medication is supposed to assist with; we have ways to measure those targets and then follow up. This allows us to have a very open discussion about whether the intervention is having an effect or not.”
These measurements also play a role when people go off pharmaceuticals, Waplak explained. “Medications can be a temporary solution while someone learns new coping techniques. When they’re ready we can reduce the dosage and, at the same time, clearly evaluate whether the techniques are working.”
Deciding when to medicate: Beliefs
Waplak says personal and family beliefs will also impact an individual’s treatment plan. “The approach we take needs to match the client’s view of the problem as well as their view of interventions,” he noted.
For example, he explained, if there was every indication that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) was having an impact on a child at home and at school, but the family’s philosophy was against medication, they would start with a different approach.
“Whatever the treatment approach, it’s important that the individual or their family is comfortable with it,” Waplak observed. “However, part of our role is also about education; that’s another reason why metrics matter. We use proven evidence-based practices and it’s important that people understand what they are; being transparent about how we measure results provides a starting point for that conversation.”
Questions about our approach to mental health treatment? Contact us directly, we’re happy to answer your questions. Or check out the blog posts linked below for more helpful information: