Helping patients understand the role of medication in the treatment of mental illness can be a challenge for clinicians. It can be difficult to help individuals understand the need to take a medication that may have unpleasant side effects, likely won’t show any real results for several weeks and may not even work. It’s impossible to get to the point of “optimal use” until getting past the first hurdle of including medication in the treatment plan. It’s important for clinicians to be aware of the need for patients to understand the goal of optimal use of medications. This awareness by clinicians can also be helpful as they help guide the patient through the initial decision-making process.
Recovery from symptoms of mental illness is frequently referred to as a journey and a big part of that journey typically involves learning to use psychiatric medications. Recovery involves learning about oneself, the illness and the various treatment modalities – including medications. Dr. Pat Deegan describes optimal use as “finding the sweet spot where, on most days, using medicine to help manage mental health challenges fades into the background, and living life takes center stage.” To learn more about some of the common challenges that people with mental illness face in finding that sweet spot, please read The Journey to Use Medication Optimally to Support Recovery (Psychiatric Services, 2020). This article can help you understand the point of view of the individuals you are working with and their families. It can also be a valuable resource to share those individuals and families to help them understand more about the normalcy of the process of asking questions during treatment and recovery.