Letter: Choosing better mental care

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To argue against better access and availability of mental health treatment is not a tenable position ["Mental health treatment not a panacea," Letter, June 13].

First, no treatment can be expected to entirely prevent terrible things from happening. Clinicians do their best to reduce the predisposition and occurrences of violence, and to relieve suffering.

The larger issue is the nature of the purported treatments received by the mass murderers. Did these treatments provide the optimal conditions for relief of active symptoms, an improved awareness of their mental illness, healthier coping skills, monitoring, medication compliance and hospitalization, when needed?

Medication alone, short-term psychotherapy and sporadic psychiatric contacts -- though preferred by insurance companies and the New York State Office of Mental Health because they cost less -- are insufficient.

In my view, a long-term psychotherapeutic relationship is required to build rapport, establish trust, and form an alliance between the patient and the clinician. It's a labor-intensive activity, and society must decide it's worth the cost.

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Don Pfeifer, Hempstead

Editor's note: The writer is a retired licensed clinical social worker.

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