During the initial appointment that I have with many of my clients, they bring up concerns about their previous medical practitioners. In this weblog I will discuss these issues to give you a better sense of what you can do to address each situation. This is important because patients are usually feeling at the mercy of their doctors. However, it is you who is employing them, so it is up to you to have a medical professional with whom you feel comfortable on all levels.
1) You have an appointment to see a mental health professional. The discussion begins with the practitioner asking you about your favorite hobby. In my example, the patient was being asked about his car collection. The patient was wondering why the issue at hand was not being discussed. In this case it was how to get his ADHD under control. It would have better use of the limited time from the patient’s point of view. So he asked his psychiatrist very directly to get on to the main reason for the visit. The doctor apologized and they got on to talking about the treatment the patient was seeking. The problem however, was that by taking this time for “small talk” the patient felt that he was being charged for every second he was there and no longer trusted that the psychologist had his best interest in mind. He ended up terminating with this psychologist and found a neurologist to work with instead.
2) You have an appointment with a doctor and you are left to wait for what feels like an eternity. You are finally called into the exam room where you get to wait again for a very long time. After all that waiting you get about 5 minutes to ask your questions and then the doctor is onto someone else. This is a problem with how the health care system works with doctors not having the time they really need to spend with their patients. There are two things that you can do to get the most of the limited time that you have:
A) You can bring in a list of your questions which will allow you to get the answers that you desire.
B) Find a different doctor who spends much more time working with the patients
because the doctor owns his/her own practice and is looking to have happy
3) You are seeing a psychologist and you are feeling very uncomfortable. You don’t realize it while you are there, but after the fact you notice that the person although sounding very nice, is telling you things that make you question their judgment. There are two ways of handling this situation:
A) You can ask the psychologist why it is that s/he is bringing this information into the conversation – there may be a constructive reason. If you find this
information is deflecting from your purpose of being there request that the focus
be on your situation only.
B) You can change psychologist to someone who you feel you have a better rapport with. In order for any pratitioner to be helpful one needs to both like and trust the practitioner. If there are any questions at all change the practitioner to someone you feel more aligned working with.
4) You are seeing a psychiatrist and you have concerns about the amount of medication that you are taking. Perhaps you are experiencing side-effects that are worrying you. Your doctor negates the concern never really answering your question continuing you at your current dose. If this ever happens it is important for you to know your rights. If you are not a danger to yourself or others, at least in the state of Massachusetts no one can force you to take any medication. If your body is clearly telling you that this medication is not working with your body, it is up to you to find someone else who will listen to and address those concerns in a manner that is respectful to your concerns about your health. In some cases I have had clients tell me that their blood work was showing distress in their kidneys and liver and their doctors still wanted to keep them on that medication. This could create massive problems for the patient because the medications are detoxified through the kidney or liver. When someone is on medication for a very long time, sometimes the end result is that the body is unable to clear it injuring the organ involved. So this is something that needs to be respected for the patients general health.
5) Your doctor speaks to you in a tone of voice that is degrading and/or infantilizing. Without your input there is little the doctor can do for you. One needs to be treated with respect and dignity for any true healing to be accomplished. If for any reason at all you feel that you are not being treated as an equal in the relationship, it is up to you to leave and find a different doctor who will listen to you, answer your concerns while treating you with respect. It is your body that is being treated so it is your right to have the respect given that is conducive to a positive outcome for you, the patient.
6) You go to your doctor with a complaint and his only response is that he can’t find any reason and that you are fine. I have had clients tell me stories of medical issues where tumors were found with the 3rd or 4th doctor when the first couple of doctors said there was nothing there to cause the problem. If you are having some sort of ongoing problem make sure that ALL medical reasons are ruled out before it becoming seen as a more psychosomatic issue. Psychosomatic issues arise because the patient isn’t willing to deal with underlying emotions, sublimating them and then all sorts of autoimmune conditions can arise as well as cancer. In this case emotional issues do need to be appropriately handled and then the illnesses will be able to become much less of an issue as the underlying causes are being dealt with.
7) You have a diagnosis of some sort of mental illness. You find yourself at the medical doctors with a pain that won’t go away. The doctor tells you that it is all in your head. Fire this person immediately and find someone who is willing to help you address what the cause of the problem is. I had one client who was very weak and was experiencing all sorts of pain in her fingers and toes. In the end it was a side-effect of one of the medications she was on. Once she had another doctor help her get off that medication safely she was fine.
8) I had one client who was experiencing some very bad side-effects to Prozac. The only way to resolve her problem according to the hospital staff was to give her to 20 mg of Xanax to calm her down. This is because they believed that because she was a person with a history of an anxiety disorder, that this was what was wrong with her. She took the Xanax and had much worse symptoms after. Your doctors need to listen to your concerns and stop throwing medications you. If they don’t know what the problem is, a referral would be the way to go.
9) You go to visit your doctor and everything is couched in terms of the worst possible situation for you. You find this terrifying. Yes, there are situations where the medical personnel do need to be honest with you, however there are many ways to give the patient the news with the tone of voice and the words chosen being very important. As a patient you want to be aware of what is going on and what can be done to help you. Being compassionate in how this information is given is an art all its own and one that you want your doctor to possess in his communications with you and your loved ones. Being told that one is terminal and only has a couple of months to live is not helpful. Being told what the diagnosis is and what that can mean and what one can do to heal is a whole other way to frame the conversation.
There are many other situations that can arise. The main point is that you want a medical professional that is not only “nice” but one who is able to listen to your concerns, give you practical and realistic feedback and is willing to work with you to find out what you can do to regain your health. You are employing your doctor, so it is ultimately up to you to find one that will give you the sort of respectful treatment that you deserve leading to a better more healthy you both physically and emotionally.
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