Therapy vs Medication: Your Decision-Making Guide (2023)

AtOpenCounseling, we believe in the power of therapy to help you overcome depression, anxiety, trauma, and a host of other mental and emotional challenges. Based on our personal experiences giving and receiving therapy, as well as our review of the research, we know that therapy is effective and that it can help you heal, grow, and recover.

But while we love and believe in therapy, we don’t share the view of other therapy-focused sites that medication is morally or medically inferior to therapy. In fact, research suggests that medication and therapy are similarly effective and that who responds to what depends on the person, not the type of treatment.

Whether medication, therapy, or a mix of both works for you depends on your unique circumstances and preferences.

We want you to find what works best for you. In this article, we present an overview of expert opinions and research results that we hope will help you make informed decisions about your treatment. Of course, it’s important to consult with a mental health professional who understands and addresses your unique circumstances. The best way to use this article is for preliminary research that can inform the discussion you have with a therapist or psychiatrist.

On This Page

  • Therapy vs. Medication for Depression
  • Therapy vs. Medication for Anxiety Disorders
  • Therapy vs. Medication for Psychotic and Bipolar Disorders
  • Therapy vs. Medication for Other Mental Health Conditions
  • Therapy vs. Medication for Children with Mental Health Conditions
  • ADHD Medication vs. Therapy
  • Fast Results vs. Long-Term Recovery
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy vs. Medication: Weighing the Evidence
  • Medication vs. Therapy for Mental Illness: Assessing Symptom Severity
  • Talk Therapy vs. Medication: Access, Cost, and Quality
  • "One Size Fits All" vs. Tailored Treatment: The Significance of Personal Factors
  • "Hard Work" vs. "The Quick Fix": Moral Myths About Therapy and Medication
  • Conclusion


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Therapy vs Medication: Your Decision-Making Guide (1)

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Therapy vs. Medication for Depression

Most research on therapy versus medication focuses on treatment for depression. The results show that both medication and therapy are effective treatments for it.

Depression can range in severity from mild seasonal changes in mood to serious, disabling symptoms that can limit your ability to work, maintain relationships, or engage in everyday self-care tasks. Medication and therapy can effectively treat mild, moderate, and major depression.

Depression Statistics: How Prevalent Is Depression?

Depression is one of the most prevalent psychiatric disorders. Each year, 7 percentof American adults, or about 17 million people, experience a major depressive episode. Of those,64 percentexperience severe impairment as a result of their depression.

The results of research on medication versus therapy for depression vary.Some studies showthat therapy is more effective.Others showthat medication is more effective, while several studies show that both areequally effective.

Based on these findings, it would be false to say either therapy or medication was the “winner” or the best choice for everyone. The World Health Organization (WHO)advises that both are considered to be effective evidence-based treatments for depression and that personal factors should play a role in which you choose.

How Popular Are Antidepressants?

Antidepressants are among the most commonly prescribed drugs in America. In fact, 5 out of the 25 most frequently prescribed drugsin 2018 were antidepressant medications (ADMs):

  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Citalopram (Celexa)
  • Trazodone (Oleptro)
  • Bupropion (Wellbutrin)

The only classes of drugs prescribed more often than antidepressants in 2018 were medications for high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

The upside of the popularity of ADMs is that more people are receiving effective treatment for depression than ever before. The downside is that ADMs have become the default treatment for depression, even for people who would prefer, or be better served by, therapy.

If any consistent result has come from the research, it’s that the best treatment for depression depends on your unique circumstances.

If you can only participate in treatment for a short period of time, therapy may be a better choice because its effects persistafter therapy has ended, while antidepressants generally only continue to work as long as you take them. (This may be enough if you’re able to address life issues contributing to your depression while you’re taking ADMs.)

Factors That Affect How Well Depression Treatment Works

Other factors that determine whether therapy or medication is the better choice include:

You can read the linked articles for the full analysis. One important research finding to consider is that therapy appears to be more effective than medication if you have a history of trauma. (Though medication can effectively treat some trauma-related symptoms and augment the effects of therapy.)

It’s also important to consider which option excites or inspires you most. Your motivation to maintain your treatment regimen will play a significant role in how well it works for you.

Ultimately, your best result will come from telling a mental health professional about your unique history, symptoms, and life circumstances and getting a personalized treatment recommendation from them.

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Therapy vs. Medication for Anxiety Disorders

Research shows that therapy and medication are both effective treatments for anxiety. Which is the best for you depends on your preferences, circumstances, and what type of anxiety disorder or symptoms you have.

Anxiety Statistics: How Prevalent Is Anxiety?

Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in the United States, with18 percentof the United States population, or about 40 million adults, experiencing an anxiety disorder each year.

The most prevalent anxiety disorders are specific phobias, which affect8.7 percentof American adults; social anxiety disorder, which affects 6.8 percent of adults in the U.S. each year; and generalized anxiety disorder, which affects about 3 percent of the adult population.

Anxiety can be treated with different kinds of medications. The most popular anxiety medications are sedatives and antidepressants that have anti-anxiety properties. The most popular sedative medications for anxiety are benzodiazepines.

What Are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are powerful drugs that are popular for their rapid calming effects. Drugs in this class include:

  • Alprazolam (Xanax)
  • Diazepam (Valium)
  • Lorazepam (Ativan)
  • Clonazepam (Klonopin)

When they are used to treat anxiety disorders, they are usually prescribed for short-term symptom management, not as long-term medications.

Many people can take benzodiazepines as prescribed and benefit from them without significant complications or side effects. However, they come with many risks, which include:

  • Chemical dependency or addiction
  • An increase in impulsive or reckless behavior
  • Dangerous interactions with other medications
  • Overdose and blackout episodes (especially when mixing benzodiazepines with alcohol)

For these reasons, not all doctors and psychiatrists are comfortable prescribing them, especially to people who have co-occurring anxiety and substance use disorders.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and other medications that were originally formulated as antidepressants are also effective in treating anxiety. Antidepressants come with their own risks and side effects, but they are generally milder than those associated with benzodiazepines.

For this reason, many physicians prefer prescribing SSRIs and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) over other medications for anxiety.

Which Medications Can Treat Both Anxiety and Depression?

Medications that are now used to treat both depression and anxiety include:

  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil)
  • Citalopram (Celexa)
  • Escitalopram (Lexapro)
  • Duloxetine (Cymbalta)
  • Venlafaxine (Effexor XR)

These medications come with risks and side effects, but in many cases, the risks are lower than they are with other medications that can be used to treat anxiety.

Research shows that therapy for anxiety can be as effective as medication. In some cases, it may be even more effective. Alarge meta-analysis, or a review of multiple studies that included over 13,000 participants, found that cognitive behavioral therapy was the most effective treatment for social anxiety disorder.Other studieshave replicated this result.

Other anxiety disorders also respond well to therapy.A 2019 studyfound that tailored CBT techniques were effective in reducing worry, the core symptom of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and in facilitating overall recovery from GAD.

A type of CBT called Exposure and Response Prevention isrecommended alongside medication as the most effective treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Therapy is particularly recommended if your OCD symptoms have not respondedto medication.

Therapy vs. Medication for Psychotic and Bipolar Disorders

To successfully treat psychotic and bipolar disorders, medication is usually required.

Therapy is not as effective as antipsychotic medications in controlling psychotic symptoms like hallucinations and delusions. It is also not as effective as medication in controlling manic symptoms or preventing manic episodes.

What Are Antipsychotic Medications?

Antipsychotic medications can help reduce active symptoms of psychotic disorders including delusions, hallucinations, and disordered thought processes. Some of the most commonly prescribed antipsychotic medications are:

  • Olanzapine (Zyprexa)
  • Risperidone (Risperdal)
  • Quetiapine (Seroquel)
  • Aripiprazole (Abilify)
  • Ziprasidone (Geodon)
  • Clozapine (Clozaril)

Most people who have schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder must take anti-psychotic medications to be able to live and function independently in the community.

While therapy isn’t a sufficient alternative to antipsychotic medication for most people with psychotic disorders, it can still help. Studies show that CBT can effectively treatmedication-resistant positive symptoms of psychosis like hallucinations and delusions, even inearly psychosis.

Therapy can also address the negative symptoms of psychotic disorders (like flat emotions and social withdrawal), which don’t respond as well to antipsychotic medications. Specialized CBT techniques that target worry can reduce delusions, anxiety, and paranoia in people with psychotic disorders.

Overall, therapy promotesbetter long-term recovery for people with psychotic disorders than medication alone.

What Are Mood Stabilizers?

Therapy isn’t as effective at preventing manic episodes as mood stabilizing medications for bipolar disorder, which include:

  • Lithium
  • Lamotrigine (Lamictal)
  • Valproic acid (Depakote)
  • Carbamazepine (Tegretol)
  • Topiramate (Topamax)

In some cases, antipsychotic medications like aripiprazole (Abilify), olanzapine (Zyprexa), and quetiapine (Seroquel) are used as mood stabilizers for people with bipolar disorder even when they don’t have psychotic symptoms.

Therapy can benefit people with bipolar disorder by addressing symptoms that aren’t well controlled by mood stabilizers. Interpersonal therapy, CBT, and psychoeducation can help you track and manage moods and identify warning signs and triggers for new mood episodes. Therapy facilitates faster recovery from depressive episodes and can help reduce rates of symptom relapse.

In conclusion, while medications are usually necessary, therapy also plays a role in treating bipolar and psychotic disorders. Some people don’t respond to medications for these conditions or find that the medications they take don’t fully control their symptoms. Even if you do respond well to medication, you can often benefit from the addition of therapy to support and enhance its effects.

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Therapy vs. Medication for Other Mental Health Conditions

Some mental health conditions don’t respond well, if at all, to medications. For example, while medications can sometimes help you manage specific symptoms of personality disorders, therapy is best, as it is the only treatment that addresses the core traitsof these conditions.

Similarly, while some medications, particularly SSRIs, can treat mood or cognitive symptoms in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), therapy is recommended as thefirst-linetreatment for PTSD. Advances in research on PTSD and other trauma-related conditions have led to the development ofeffective trauma-oriented therapiesincluding cognitive processing therapy (CPT) and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).

For More Information

For more information on therapy methods that are effective in treating trauma-related conditions including PTSD and borderline personality disorder, you can read the following articles on OpenCounseling:

Insomnia has historically been treated with medication, but that’s not your only option. A newer form of CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I), has proven so successful that the American College of Physicians now recommends it as the first-linetreatment for insomnia.

Therapy vs. Medication for Children with Mental Health Conditions

As with adults, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to choosing between therapy or medication for children. Some conditions require medication to successfully treat, while others respond better to therapy.

Combining therapy and medication can improve outcomes for a range of childhood mental health conditions includingdepressionandanxiety disorders. Therapy can help even very young children address and improvepsychiatric symptoms and associated behavioral problems.

Medications can play an essential role in stabilizing severe psychiatric symptoms that put children at risk of harm. However, lack of certainty about how psychiatric medications affect a child’s developing brain intensify the dilemma of therapy versus medication for parents and clinicians. What should you do when a child is not in crisis, but is experiencing symptoms that are disruptive or painful?

Nowhere is the debate more intense than over how to treat children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

ADHD Medication vs. Therapy

Prescription rates for stimulants used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), including methylphenidate (Ritalin) and amphetamines (Adderall and Vyvanse), have continued to rise in the United States. These medications effectively manage symptoms of ADHD for many children and adults, but they don’t work for everyone, and side effects can be significant.

An Alternative to Stimulant Medication

One alternative for people who are sensitive to stimulants is non-stimulant ADHD medication like atomoxetine (Strattera), which is a popular and effective option for both children and adults.

Fortunately, therapy is an effective treatment for ADHD as well. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend behavior therapyas “the first line of treatment, before medication is tried” for children under six years of age.

For children of all ages and young adults, research suggests that therapy may be more effective over the long term than medication treatment for ADHD, and that combining both can be especially effective.

Research shows that specialized CBT for ADHD symptoms canimprove outcomes for adults with the disorder. This finding supports the growing consensus that combining therapy and medication works well for ADHD.

Fast Results vs. Long-Term Recovery

One factor that is important to consider when you’re comparing therapy and medication is timing. In general, medications take effect faster and have stronger effects in the early stages of treatment, while therapy takes longer to have an effect but yields lasting effectsthat grow stronger over time.

This may be the reason that many people choose to combine both forms of treatment, especially when their symptoms are severe. Medications can help you stabilize more quickly after a mental health crisis, while engaging in therapy can improve your chances of long-term recovery and reduce the risk of relapse when or if you stop taking psychiatric medication.

Both medication and therapy have clear benefits, and research shows that neither is better in all cases or under all circumstances.

Some studies show that combining therapy and medication actually impairs long-term recovery, but other studies showthe opposite result. Once again, it depends on your particular symptoms and other personal factors.

The best way to find the right option for you is to speak with an experienced mental health practitioner who can assess your unique circumstances and make a recommendation based on your specific case.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy vs. Medication: Weighing the Evidence

Research shows that many kinds of therapy are effective and thatuniversal factorslike the relationship between you and your therapist playa more important rolein the effectiveness of therapy than the method a therapist uses.

Nonetheless, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been studied more intensively than any other form of therapy and is the therapeutic method with the strongest evidence base.

Are Some Evidence-Based Methods Over-Hyped?

Researchers have found that publication bias has exaggerated the apparent efficacy of evidence-based therapy methods like CBTandantidepressant medications.

This doesn’t mean they aren’t effective; it just means they may not be as effective as they are said to be in both academic and popular publications.

Its measurable and powerful effects may reflect how CBT, in its own way, is like medication—with its laser focus on symptom relief, it can take effect and produce measurable results faster than other therapeutic methods.

It’s also effective in treating a range of conditions. Cognitive behavioral therapy was originally developed to treat depression and anxiety disorders, which it does well. Over the years, specialized forms of CBT have been developed to treat trauma-related conditions, personality disorders, and insomnia as well.

This doesn’t mean that if you feel drawn to a type of treatment that isn’t as well-researched as CBT, you shouldn’t choose it. Even with CBT, the evidence is not conclusive beyond the fact it’s generally effective. Just how effective it is, and under what circumstances, and if it is truly superior in both the short- and long-term over other therapeutic methods, is another matter.

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For More Information

For more information on the different therapy methods, including how they work and which conditions and circumstances each method is best suited to address, you can read our article “Which Therapy Method Is Right for Me?”

Ultimately, the most important research is your own. Take notes on what works for you and read the news, especially on developments in the mental health field.

New insights emerge each year, and the best way to ensure that you’re receiving evidence-based treatment is to review the latest developments in the research.

By reading mental health news, you can not only learn about new methods and medications, you can also learn tips and tricks that will help you adjust your approach and make it more effective.

Medication vs. Therapy for Mental Illness: Assessing Symptom Severity

The severity of your symptoms is another important factor to consider. Severe symptoms, especially when they reach a crisis point, can put you at risk of harm. Taking fast-acting medications can stabilize severe symptoms and keep you safe before therapy has had time to work (or even before you’re mentally ready for therapy).

What Is Serious Mental Illness (SMI)?

In general, you’re considered to have a severe or serious mental illness (SMI) if you:

  • Are diagnosed, or could be diagnosed with, a mental health condition listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) that is severe and has persisted over time.
    • (Note that while other disorders can qualify as SMI, the diagnoses most commonly associated with SMI are:
      • Bipolar disorder,
      • Severe major depressive disorder, and
      • Schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders.)
  • Experience changes in mood or thinking that persist over time, cause significant pain or distress, and interfere with your daily functioning.
  • Suffer significant functional impairment in one or more of the following areas as a result of your mental health symptoms:
    • Interpersonal relationships (you are socially isolated or experience significant chaos or instability in your relationships).
    • Work or school (you have lost a job, failed a class, or are otherwise having difficulty fulfilling responsibilities at work or school).
    • Society and the legal system (you have been arrested or incarcerated multiple times or are having other serious social difficulties that affect your security or well-being).
    • Activities of daily living (you’re having difficulty caring for or keeping up with your personal hygiene or the hygiene of your home; you’re homeless or experiencing housing instability; you’re unable to maintain good nutrition; or you’re not taking medications or actions you need to take to manage chronic medical conditions).
  • Have mental health symptoms that interfere with your ability to tell the difference between what’s happening inside your mind and what’s happening in the world around you.

Even within the same general mental health episode, symptoms can shift in severity. What might start out as a vague sadness can develop into a depressive episode. On the other hand, it’s possible for a long-standing mental health condition to resolve to the point that you’re ready to move beyond symptom stabilization to work on personal growth goals like being more creative or living more authentically.

That said, the severity of the issues you want to address can guide your treatment decisions. If you’re in crisis or otherwise experiencing severe mental health symptoms, medication and intensive treatment like inpatient or day treatment programs are usually recommended to make sure you stabilize as quickly as possible.

If you have moderate symptoms that respond to both medication and therapy, consider combining both. If you have mild or no active psychiatric symptoms but want to make changes in your life, therapy may be the best fit for your needs.

Again, though, it depends on your unique situation. Talking to a mental health professional will help you find what’s right for you.

Talk Therapy vs. Medication: Access, Cost, and Quality

As we understand well at OpenCounseling, the cost of therapy is a deciding factor for many people who are thinking about trying it.

Research suggests that while both medication and therapy are similarly cost-effective, therapy may be more cost-effective over the long term than medication. On the other hand, medication can often be more immediately financially accessible, especially if you have insurance.

Some people choose medication as their preferred long-term treatment simply because it's what works best for them. Others choose it because it fits into their schedule and budget better than therapy does.

If you can get medication for free or for a minimal co-pay, and you only need to go to a single annual appointment with your primary care physician to maintain your prescription, medication may be the more affordable and sustainable choice. And if it’s more affordable, you’re more likely to maintain it over time, which is an essential factor in long-term recovery.

Quality control is also a little bit easier with medication than with therapy. While primary care doctors usually aren’t as good as psychiatrists at adjusting medications, and some medications that work well for some people don’t work at all for others, the effect of medication is generally more predictable than the effect of therapy. Some bad therapists can do more harm than good and it can take some time to find a therapist who’s the right match.

If your insurance doesn't cover therapy, or if your co-pay for therapy is high, financial and time burdens can make it hard to stay in therapy long enough to achieve your therapeutic goals.

On the contrary, if therapy fits into your budget and schedule, the lasting skills and lessons you gain from it can help keep you mentally well and prevent relapse long after you’ve stopped going, making it more affordable in the long term.

Whether you have access to a therapist who has expertise in using a specific method or working with clients similar to you can also determine whether therapy is the most effective choice for you. Working with a therapist who doesn’t know how to address your particular needs can be a huge waste of time and money.

Ultimately, personal factors will determine what form of treatment is most affordable for you. The most important thing is to get treatment at all. As the World Health Organization says, “Treatment of depressive [or any other mental health] disorder is cost-effective compared to no treatment.”

"One Size Fits All" vs. Tailored Treatment: The Significance of Personal Factors

Personal factors determine whether medication or therapy is effective for any given individual. Some of these factors have been identified specifically in the research. People with a significant history of childhood trauma seem torespond better to therapythan to medication, for example.

It's important to consider evidence from your own life. Your past experiences with therapy or medication are the most personally significant source of information about what works for you.

Some people need a treatment “tune-up” after a successful first round of treatment with therapy, medication, or both. Which route you go will depend on what worked for you last time.

For example, it might not make as much sense to go back to therapy if your most recent experience wasn’t helpful or if you already know from past experience that a medication tune-up should address your current symptoms.

Conversely, if you had a negative experience with a medication that didn’t work well, that took a long time to work, or that caused severe side effects, you might want to opt for trying a round of therapy instead of trying medication again.

Reading research and knowing what’s generally effective is important, but nothing is as important as trusting yourself and your own lived experience.

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"Hard Work" vs. "The Quick Fix": Moral Myths About Therapy and Medication

Our culture has a love-hate relationship with psychiatric medication. Though doctors prescribe it extensively, it’s also frequently dismissed with condescending terms like “happy pills” or “the quick fix.” The popular narrative is that medications are the “lazy” or easy route, while therapy is the heroic choice, reflecting a person’s capacity for hard work and emotional “bravery.”

These are myths.

No form of mental health treatment is easy. It takes bravery to be vulnerable and to deal with mental health issues no matter how you choose to go about it.

If you take psychiatric medication, you may continue to struggle with residual symptoms or other issues medication can’t address—but that the medication makes it possible for you to address. You may have to put in a lot of work to help your prescribing physician make the right changes or adjustments to get your medication to work.

For many people, taking medication, going to therapy, or doing both is just the first step in a long-term personal recovery program that also includes significant lifestyle changes. Regardless of which type of treatment you receive, the biggest changes, greatest growth, and most significant impacts come from the choices you make in your day-to-day life.

Therapy is less effective if you don’t do your homework in between sessions or don’t apply what you’re learning in the therapy room to your life outside of it. It’s true that simply showing up for a session takes work, because it means facing instead of avoiding the issues you’re seeking treatment to address. But it’s not true that if you’re in therapy, you’re necessarily doing more work than people who are treating their mental health issues with medication.

You don't need to apologize for knowing what works for you. Even your closest friends and family don't know everything you've been through or what it's taken for you to get where you are today.

If someone is criticizing you for choosing to take medication or see a therapist, it’s probably because they’re projecting their own unresolved issues onto you. Let their lack of understanding be their problem; your mental health is what matters most.


Both medication and therapy are effective ways to treat a wide range of mental health conditions. Whether you should choose one over the other, combine both, or use each at a different point in your recovery depends on a number of things.

What to Consider Before You Choose

When you’re trying to decide whether therapy or medication (or both) is the right choice for you, consider the following:

  • Which mental health condition or symptoms you’re treating
  • The severity of your mental health condition or symptoms
  • Whether you’ve achieved good results with therapy or medication (or both) in the past
  • Whether you’ve had a bad reaction to therapy or medication (or both) in the past
  • Which type of treatment is the most accessible where you live
  • Which type of treatment has the most experienced clinicians available to you
  • Which is most affordable for you now and which will be most affordable long-term
  • Whether you’re in crisis or otherwise need fast-acting treatment for your safety or stability
  • Whether your symptoms are related to past (or recent) experiences or traumas that you need to process or “talk through” to fully resolve
  • Whether you have comorbid medical or mental health issues that would be negatively or positively affected by side (or direct) effects of therapy or medication

Most people choose based on what is most appealing to them personally and what best fits their current circumstances. This is as good a reason as any for choosing one treatment approach over the other.

You’re more likely to stick to what works for you and what you like best. Motivation and long-term commitment will increase your chances of staying in treatment long enough to recover and will reduce the risk of symptom relapse.

It's also fine to change your mind: what worked for you once may no longer work for you.

The most important information to consider for your individual case comes from your own personal experience. Trust yourself! Even if the first thing you try doesn’t work, or doesn’t work as well as you’d hoped, it puts you a step closer to finding what does. Everything you try will improve your self-knowledge and take you further along your path of recovery.


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Stephanie Hairston

Stephanie Hairston is a freelance mental health writer who spent several years in the field of adult mental health before transitioning to professional writing and editing. As a clinical social worker, she provided group and individual therapy, crisis intervention services, and psychological assessments.

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What is better therapy or medication? ›

Research generally shows that psychotherapy is more effective than medications, and that adding medications does not significantly improve outcomes from psychotherapy alone.

How do I know if I need medication or therapy? ›

One factor that is important to consider when you're comparing therapy and medication is timing. In general, medications take effect faster and have stronger effects in the early stages of treatment, while therapy takes longer to have an effect but yields lasting effects that grow stronger over time.

Why is therapy more effective than medication? ›

For many people, treatment programs like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Psycho-dynamic Psychotherapy, or In-vivo Therapy, have proven to have more lasting results than psychotropic medications. The reason is that these therapies teach you coping skills.

What makes choosing CBT over medication a better option? ›

CBT also can address symptoms on a more enduring basis. Research suggests that medications often work but they do so only for so long as you keep taking them, whereas CBT may reduce risk for subsequent symptom return long after treatment is over.

Why do people choose not to go to therapy? ›

Individuals fear judgment, change, the unknown, and what they might discover in therapy; additionally, they're too prideful to admit they need help. Additionally, some people doubt the efficacy of mental health treatment: They're uncertain it will work or misunderstand how it works.

Can you take medication without therapy? ›

Takeaway #3: Taking medication without working on yourself in therapy is not a long-term solution, as medication alone can only address the symptoms of anxiety or depression. Medication cannot fix your anxious thoughts or depressive feelings; it only suppresses them for a time.

How do you know if therapy isn't for you? ›

If You're Struggling Between Sessions

However, if you've voiced that you're feeling destabilized between your sessions and your provider isn't offering coping tools or even a check-in call when you're in crisis, this is a sign that your current therapist may not be the right fit for you.

How do I know if therapy will work for me? ›

You also know therapy is working if you're using the skills you learned in session, outside of session. For example, are you better able to set boundaries with others, prioritize your own needs and demands, and effectively deal with situations without spiraling into a panic attack? These are great signs of progress.

Should I go to therapy even if I dont need it? ›

From time to time, you may wonder if it would be okay to make an appointment to see a therapist, not because you're having a major crisis but just because you need someone to talk to. Psychotherapy can be very helpful even if you don't have mental illness and aren't dealing with major losses or problems.

What are the benefits of therapy? ›

Potential Benefits of Counseling
  • improved communication and interpersonal skills.
  • greater self-acceptance and self-esteem.
  • ability to change self-defeating behaviors/habits.
  • better expression and management of emotions, including anger.
  • relief from depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions.

How can therapy be more effective? ›

12 Therapy Tips For Getting the Most Out of Sessions
  1. Take Care of Business First. ...
  2. Bring ALL Your Emotions. ...
  3. Stay Focused on YOU. ...
  4. Find the Right Therapist. ...
  5. Try to Connect With Your Therapist. ...
  6. Do Routine Check-Ins. ...
  7. Don't Stay in a Bad Relationship. ...
  8. Look For Themes and Patterns.
Jun 16, 2020

Why therapy is better than self help? ›

We continue to be formed and reformed throughout life by our subsequent relationships, so another person - a therapist will probably have more of an impact upon us than a book. This makes therapy a more powerful tool than a self-help book.

What are the advantages of CBT therapy vs medication alone? ›

Meta-analytic reviews in general find that CBT and medication both work similarly well in the short-term, but that after treatment ends CBT tends to yield better results. This is because the skills people learn during a course of CBT can enable them to maintain the progress made after the treatment ends.

Do you think medications or psychotherapy is best for treating OCD? ›

Understandably, many people seek out medication to help with this problem, and research is shown that medication can be helpful some people. However, research is also very clear that particular proven forms of psychotherapy work much better than medication for OCD.

Is CBT I more effective than medications? ›

CBTi is effective and long-lasting

CBT takes longer than drugs to produce sleep improvements but these improvements are sustained over time. Use of CBTi has been demonstrated to improve most outcomes compared with inactive controls.

What are the negative effects of therapy? ›

They include treatment failure and deterioration of symptoms, emergence of new symptoms, suicidality, occupational problems or stigmatization, changes in the social network or strains in relationships, therapy dependence, or undermining of self‐efficacy."

What stops people from seeking therapy? ›

Barriers to seeking help for an emotional or mental health difficulty
  • Stigmatising beliefs. ...
  • Perceiving problem as not serious enough. ...
  • Reliance on self. ...
  • Difficulty accessing help. ...
  • Fear of negative outcome. ...
  • Difficulty identifying or expressing concerns.

When should I stop therapy? ›

Stopping therapy may be an option if you feel you have achieved all the goals you set and you've developed the skills to move on. You've learned how to manage your symptoms or have found a way to move through a challenge.

Why do people with mental illness not want to take their meds? ›

The single most significant reason why individuals with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder fail to take their medication is because of their lack of awareness of their illness (anosognosia). Other important reasons are concurrent alcohol or drug abuse; costs; and a poor relationship between psychiatrist and patient.

Why is therapy better than antidepressants? ›

Older 2009 research has also shown cognitive therapy to be as effective as antidepressant medication. Therapy can teach you long-term management techniques that you can always use, even after you've stopped attending sessions. Medication, on the other hand, is generally only effective while you're taking it.

What do you do when you need therapy but can t? ›

“There are several options to consider when you can't afford therapy. Asking a therapist for a sliding scale or pro bono services, applying for services at a local community center, checking if your employer offers an employee assistance program, and checking online services are some of the options.”

What are red flags in a therapist? ›

Red flags in therapy include violations of confidentiality, boundaries, and licensure, among others. Therapy can be ineffective when the therapist is unable to communicate or lacks the training to treat a patient's specific problem. Patients can raise concerns with their therapist directly.

When therapists dont know what to say? ›

If you don't know what to talk about in therapy, some things to consider talking about include recent life events, relationships, traumas, and more.

Can you tell your therapist too much? ›

The short answer is that you can tell your therapist anything – and they hope that you do. It's a good idea to share as much as possible, because that's the only way they can help you.

How long does therapy take to make a difference? ›

So how long does it typically take for treatment to work? Recent research indicates that on average 15 to 20 sessions are required for 50 percent of patients to recover as indicated by self-reported symptom measures.

What is the success rate of therapy? ›

About 75 percent of people who enter psychotherapy show some benefit from it. Psychotherapy has been shown to improve emotions and behaviors and to be linked with positive changes in the brain and body.

Does my therapist think about me between sessions? ›

Your therapist's relationship with you exists between sessions, even if you don't communicate with each other. She thinks of your conversations, as well, continuing to reflect on key moments as the week unfolds. She may even reconsider an opinion she had or an intervention she made during a session.

Do happy people go to therapy? ›

The stigma that only unhappy people seek therapy simply isn't true. There are over 59 million Americans who turn to therapy to help improve their mental health and to learn healthy habits that will serve them for the rest of their lives!

Can you be happy and go to therapy? ›

The truth is, therapy is an incredibly helpful tool for everyone, even if you consider yourself mentally healthy. Let's take a look at a few of the benefits you and everyone else can experience from seeing a therapist.

How many people need therapy but don't get it? ›

A recent survey shows 42 percent of U.S. adults who needed care in the previous 12 months did not receive it because of costs and other barriers.

What is the most important thing in therapy? ›

The most important aspect of effective therapy is that the patient and the therapist work together to help the patient reach their goals in therapy. Q. Some therapists consistently produce better outcomes than others, regardless of treatment and patient characteristics.

What are the main reasons for therapy? ›

This list includes an overview of some of the most common reasons why people seek therapy.
  • Addiction. ...
  • Anxiety and stress. ...
  • Confidence, self-esteem, and support. ...
  • Depression. ...
  • Grief and loss. ...
  • Illnesses. ...
  • Phobias. ...
  • Relationship issues.
Nov 24, 2020

What does therapy teach you? ›

Here are five life-changing skills and tools learned in therapy that will serve teens throughout their lives.
  • Self-Awareness. ...
  • Emotional Self-Regulation. ...
  • Improved Motivation. ...
  • Relationship and Communication Skills. ...
  • Setting Healthy Boundaries.
Nov 10, 2020

What are the three most important factors for therapy to be effective? ›

Another important issue is the degree to which these three common factors (empathy, positive regard, and genuineness) contribute to treatment outcomes and how these findings accord with the well-established link between therapeutic alliance and outcomes.

How do I organize my thoughts before therapy? ›

  1. Make a list of issues you want to discuss. ...
  2. Be mindful of your most pervasive negative thoughts and feelings experienced during the week, including when, where, and with whom they occur. ...
  3. Bring a notepad to jot down ideas, exercises, or resources suggested by your therapist. ...
  4. Do your homework!
Apr 28, 2014

Does therapy help or make it worse? ›

Yes, most people can benefit from the right kind of therapy at the right time in their lives. Yes, it's more likely that therapy will do good than harm. But the dark secret in the mental health world is that therapy can cause harm.

Is it worth going to therapy? ›

The Value in Therapy Surpasses Monetary Value. Some research shows that psychotherapy (also known as talk therapy) is effective for up to 75% of people. It can improve the behaviors and emotions that are negatively impacting your mental health.

Why therapy is better than medication? ›

Unlike with the potential of some psychotropic medications, psychotherapy is not addictive. Furthermore, some studies have shown that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can be more effective at relieving anxiety and depression than medication.

What is more effective therapy or medication? ›

Research generally shows that psychotherapy is more effective than medications, and that adding medications does not significantly improve outcomes from psychotherapy alone.

How is therapy different from medication? ›

One factor that is important to consider when you're comparing therapy and medication is timing. In general, medications take effect faster and have stronger effects in the early stages of treatment, while therapy takes longer to have an effect but yields lasting effects that grow stronger over time.

How do you treat OCD without medication or therapy? ›

As was mentioned above, cognitive-behavioral therapy is a solid option as a means to avoid medication. The foundation of CBT for OCD involves exposure and response (or ritual) prevention (ERP).

Is therapy enough for OCD? ›

Psychotherapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a type of psychotherapy, is effective for many people with OCD .

What is the best therapy for intrusive thoughts? ›

Cognitive behavioral therapy is one strategy that is often successful in helping people manage intrusive thoughts. The process may help you to shift some of your general thought patterns, which can enable you to better manage these thoughts when they do occur and might lessen their frequency.

Is cognitive behavioral therapy better than antidepressants? ›

Individual cognitive behavioral therapy is as effective as antidepressant medication in the treatment of major depressive disorder (SOR: A, consistent findings from two randomized controlled trials).

What is the most successful anxiety treatment? ›

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most effective form of psychotherapy for anxiety disorders. Generally a short-term treatment, CBT focuses on teaching you specific skills to improve your symptoms and gradually return to the activities you've avoided because of anxiety.

Is physical therapy better than medication? ›

Many people struggling with pain make the mistake of leaning on prescription medications for relief, but drugs only mask the symptoms. They don't target or correct the source of the pain. Thankfully, there is something that has been proven to work: physical therapy.

Is medication the best treatment for mental illness? ›

Medications. Although psychiatric medications don't cure mental illness, they can often significantly improve symptoms. Psychiatric medications can also help make other treatments, such as psychotherapy, more effective.

Is medication better than therapy for ADHD? ›

Medication helps many kids with ADHD, but research shows that meds work best when paired with alternative treatments like behavior therapy.

Is therapy the best option? ›

Research shows the benefits of therapy last longer than medication alone. Medication can reduce some symptoms of mental health conditions, but therapy teaches people skills to address many symptoms on their own. These skills last after therapy ends, and symptoms may continue to improve with thereapist touch bases.

Why is physical therapy the best? ›

Physical therapy provides so many benefits that you may not realize all the reasons it's worth a try. Physical therapy is a proven treatment method that helps people heal from injuries, disabilities and health conditions. Some of its many benefits include pain management, improved mobility and muscle strengthening.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of physical therapy? ›

Equinox PT
  • PROS: Physical therapy can help someone avoid surgery and pain, learn to. walk after an injury, get stronger, gain motion, be able to perform desired tasks. ...
  • CONS: Physical therapy costs money (health insurance usually covers some or. ...
  • PROS vs CONS: Overall, the PROS of attending physical therapy far outweigh.

Why is physical therapy so effective? ›

Physical therapists and physical therapist assistants help you maximize your movement, manage pain, avoid surgery and prescription drugs, manage chronic (long-term) conditions, and recover from and prevent injury.

Can mental illness help without medication? ›

Most people use a combination of treatments to help meet their needs. Things like therapy, brain stimulation, supplements, and self-care are scientifically-backed as effective ways to reduce the symptoms of certain mental illnesses.

How do you know when therapy isn't working? ›

Some things that suggest that your therapist may be less than helpful are the following: You complain about not being able to make any significant progress and your therapist tells you that you have to process the problem emotionally before you can expect any changes.

How does therapy improve mental health? ›

It helps build self-esteem, reduce anxiety, strengthen coping mechanisms, and improve social and community functioning. Supportive psychotherapy helps patients deal with issues related to their mental health conditions which in turn affect the rest of their lives.

Is medication enough to treat ADHD? ›

Medications are the first line of treatment for ADHD. Studies have shown they're effective for about 80% of children with the condition. But you may be worried about the side effects of the medication or want to avoid taking them for another reason. For many people, behavior therapy is an appropriate option.

Is it worth taking medication for ADHD? ›

Not everyone with ADHD needs medicine. But medicine can help most people with ADHD stay focused longer, listen better, and fidget less. People also benefit from therapy to learn and practice skills like staying organized, managing schoolwork, or dealing with stress. Medicine isn't a shortcut to mastering these skills.

What are the disadvantages of therapy? ›

The process of therapy may cause you to experience uncomfortable or painful feelings, such as sadness, guilt, anxiety, anger, or frustration. Counseling may bring up painful memories. It might disrupt relationships.

Do therapists actually help? ›

How effective is psychotherapy? Hundreds of studies have found that psychotherapy helps people make positive changes in their lives. Reviews of these studies show that about 75% of people who enter psychotherapy show some benefit.

What should I get out of therapy? ›

It should improve your mental health and well-being, and overall, make you feel better. It may take time to see positive changes — therapy can be really hard work! But even just the act of venting can help improve our outlook. Plus, there's nothing stupid to talk about in therapy.


1. Are You Stuck in Freeze Mode? How to Turn off the Freeze Response
(Therapy in a Nutshell)
2. How to recover from depression
(Celt Views)
4. ADHD & How Anyone Can Improve Their Focus | Huberman Lab Podcast #37
(Andrew Huberman)
5. Shared-Decision Making: Your Role in Lung Cancer Treatment Choices
(Patient Empowerment Network)
6. Andrew Huberman - ADHD Treatment Dopamine, Drugs, and Decision Making
(Smart & Healthy)


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