How do you feel about taking medication? Any of these sound familiar?
- No big deal. It helps me feel better, and it’s a habit now, so I don’t think about it.
- I wish I didn’t need it, and sometimes I skip a dose or two just to see if I can get along without it. I’m not sure it’s helping.
- Medication? No way! I don’t want those chemicals messing with my mind. The drug companies are just trying to convince people that they need meds so they can make a lot of money.
- I wouldn’t mind taking the medication if it weren’t for the side effects. What it does for me just isn’t worth putting up with what it does to me.
Whatever your attitude about medications, chances are that you never sat down with your doctor to talk about what kinds of treatment alternatives you had or to negotiate a treatment plan that suited your particular needs.
Psychologist and researcher Patricia Deegen promotes what’s known as shared decision-making. Shared decision-making means that the patient trusts the doctor to be an expert on medication and the doctor trusts the patient to be an expert on his or her needs and values. As someone who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, Dr. Deegen understands that in addition to psychiatric medicine there is something called personal medicine, i.e., what people do for themselves in addition to or sometimes instead of taking medication that helps them recover from mental disorders.
Dr. Deegen says, “Personal medicine reminds us that there are many ways to change our body’s biochemistry and that, within the task of recovery, pill medicine must complement and support personal medicine, or the things that give one’s life purpose and meaning” (Deegen PE. The lived experience of using psychiatric medication in the recovery process and a shared decision-making program to support it. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal. 2007;31(1):62-69.).
And the things that give our lives purpose and meaning can change. So your conversation with your provider should continue on a regular basis to make sure that your goals and your provider’s goals are in agreement.