I recently attended therapy workshop by Dr. David Burns. Dr. Burns’ book, The Feeling Good Handbook describes a type of therapy that is very similar to what I use with my clients. The Feeling Good Handbook is a long time New York Times bestseller. Dr. Burns was for many years a researcher and professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania. He is now a visiting professor of psychiatry at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Many of the therapy topics that David Burns addresses are also addressed in my book, Perfect Circle. Even though he is a psychiatrist, Dr. Burns has always been somewhat cautious about the use of anti-depressant medications. In The Feeling Good Handbook he recommended using some anti-depressant medications for short periods of time (up to six months) but then suggested going off of them. He has always felt that the cognitive behavioral therapy as outlined in his books was a superior and safer alternative to medications. I pretty much say the same thing in my book Perfect Circle in chapter “D” of the ISLAND acrostic. That chapter is “Deal with depression and anger”. I believe that anti-depressant medications can be helpful but they should be monitored closely by a psychiatrist if they are going to be used. My main argument is that they are generally safe or you could not have 200 million prescriptions written ever year, and they seem to work dramatically with a small number of my clients.
At the therapy workshop, Dr. Burns was much emphatic that anti-depressant medications are not any better than placebo (sugar) pills. That is quite a statement for a psychiatrist to make. He bases much of his argument on the work of Irving Kirsch and his book, The Emperor’s New Drugs. Kirsch’s main point is that the drugs don’t really help more than placebo. Both Burn’s and Kirsch argue for empirically based therapies for people with depression. This is certainly worth considering.