Nicole is at her wit’s end. She had another call from the Jacob’s principal about his behavior, and his teacher and the school counselor have both recommended she ask his pediatrician to put him on medication that will help him calm down and concentrate in class. But he seems like a normal 9-year-old to Nicole. Isn’t that just the way little boys act? Won’t giving him some kind of drug affect his personality?

Bruce talked to his doctor (and longtime golf pal) about feeling depressed. His friend offered to write a prescription for an antidepressant. Bruce isn’t sure he wants to do that. He’s heard that those drugs make people zone out and he’s worried about the potential side effects. Maybe finding a therapist would work better. His buddy shrugs and tees up his next shot.

No two people are the same, and everyone facing a mental health challenge presents a unique set of circumstances. While the TV commercials promote the latest medication as a magical pill for solving a particular problem, it’s rarely that easy or straightforward.

The human brain is an amazingly complex organism that depends upon complicated chemistry to keep it functioning effectively. When the chemistry is out of balance, it may lead to problems with anxiety, depression, and attention. But that doesn’t mean the problems you or a loved one are experiencing need medication. In fact, medications are rarely a complete cure for the symptoms they treat, but in many cases, they can reduce the negative effects of symptoms so that counseling and other methods work more effectively.

Because we’re not medical doctors, the counselors at Care to Change do not prescribe medications, but we frequently work with healthcare providers to serve the needs of the people we see. For example, if we’re trying to help a child who is exhibiting behavior problems, we may recommend the parent talk with the pediatrician about treatment approaches to support our efforts.  If it’s an adult who’s struggling with depression, medication may help them get through their daily life while their counselor addresses any underlying issues.

Medication isn’t for everyone, but it certainly makes a difference when appropriate. If you get a headache, a cold glass of water and rest may help; if you get a migraine, a Tylenol might be better. It’s similar with mental health. Sometimes making lifestyle changes will make the difference needed. Other times, it requires medication. Our bodies are complicated, but there are definitely options to support them.

What is most important is that medication isn’t an either-or choice. It’s a decision by professionals as to the best approach to treat each person’s unique needs. And, while educators, relatives, and neighbors may mean well when they suggest you or your child should be taking medications, remember that they’re probably not medical or mental health professionals.

If you’re grappling with the decision about putting your child — or yourself — on medication for mental health needs, why not sit down with one of our highly trained counselors? We’ll discuss the situation and ask questions to better understand the factors that may be creating issues. If it’s appropriate, we may recommend consulting with a doctor and can even refer you to practitioners who work cooperatively with mental health professionals. The sooner you contact us, the sooner you can replace your anxieties with sound recommendations.

Brittany Smith is one of Care to Change’s professional counselors. She focuses on helping young children and teens who have faced challenges find the guidance and support needed to become healthy adults.