Monday’s guest column by Linea Johnson that “Mental illness is not the end” [Opinion, Aug. 18] is an example of a person who has managed to function with her bipolar illness and to embrace her “disability.”
The truth is, patients with mental illness, especially a chronic and long-term illness like bipolar have a very difficult time getting treatment in Washington state. The problem both patients and mental-health clinicians have faced in the past seven years since Washington passed mental-health parity laws is the restrictive attitude by many insurers toward psychotherapy as a treatment for chronic emotional disorders. Many insurers have even revised the way that they define mental-health conditions, limiting descriptions to what most responsible clinicians call crisis treatment.
We must recognize that psychotherapy is as important for treatment of mental-health disorders as psychotropic medication, by far the most common form of treatment, and should be just as available. While medication may relieve symptoms alone it is more effective when used in combination with psychotherapy. Medication alone cannot lead to the self-reflection and self-regulation that successful emotional functioning requires. It is the therapeutic bond between the therapist and patient that results in psychotherapeutic effectiveness.
Sue Wiedenfeld, Ph.D.
Chair, Washington State Coalition of Mental Health Professionals and Consumers, Seattle