It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. If you’ve had a coach, personal trainer, inspirational teacher, or a really motivational friend, there is a good chance you heard them say something similar. Most likely, they said this to you because they wanted to encourage you to keep working toward your goal – whatever it was.
A senior military leader, and psychologist, has a similar hope – he wants service members to stick with mental health treatment and give it a chance to work even if they don’t see immediate progress.
According to Capt. Anthony A. Arita, Deployment Health Clinical Center director and experienced clinical neuropsychologist, people who give up on treatment too soon rob themselves of the benefits of care. Many forms of psychotherapy require 10 to 12 sessions to achieve noticeable symptom reduction. If medications are prescribed, it can take several weeks to find the right medications and therapeutic dosages.
If it’s not working, talk to your provider
If you don’t think your treatment is working, or if you are unclear about your treatment options, share your concerns with your provider. You should feel comfortable asking your provider to explain your diagnosis, and treatment plan, in a way you understand.
“For treatment to have the most impact, it’s important patients actively participate in the recovery process, follow their treatment plan – including taking medications as prescribed and completing therapy homework – and meet with their providers regularly with limited breaks in care,” Arita said.
Don’t expect a quick fix; recovery takes time, especially when patients have co-occurring conditions, such as alcohol or substance abuse, traumatic brain injury or chronic pain.
“Most people who persevere with treatment can expect very positive results,” Arita said.
It sounds like a lot of work; maybe I don’t really need it
If you think ignoring your medical conditions will make them go away, think again. Not taking your health seriously or choosing to do nothing may make things worse.
“Some people assume that forgoing medical treatment for severe psychological conditions, like posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), won’t matter – this is simply not true,” Arita said. “Without proper care any medical condition can get worse and negatively affect many aspects of a person’s life.”
It may affect my career
Some service members don’t seek treatment because they fear it will hurt their careers. Although it is true that a severe medical condition — physical or psychological — may affect a person’s fitness for duty, according to Arita, participating in treatment or receiving a mental health diagnosis doesn’t automatically impact one’s status.
“The important thing to know is that treatment does work, so keep at it,” Arita said. “In most cases, people recover from symptoms and return to optimal readiness – and that’s what we really want for our service members.”
Posted by Myron J. Goodman, DCoE Public Affairs on May 14, 2015