Welcome to MHM #8! Mental Health Moments are shorter posts with practical tips, suggestions, and other helpful things.
I’m on my fifth psychiatrist since 2004, and I’ve seen many more during my hospitalizations. There are some great men and women in this profession who care about their patients and go above and beyond their duties for our mental health. But there are also some doozies out there that should be avoided at all costs.
Picking out a pdoc randomly from the yellow pages (I’m going old-school here) is NOT the way to go. You could end up with someone who doesn’t give a shit or who can hardly remember who you are from visit to visit because they simply aren’t paying that much attention to you when you’re there.
That said, here are seven signs that you might want to high-tail it and run to the next pdoc on your list:
- Their building is old, the waiting room is musty, parking sucks, and the furniture has a little too much of that “lived-in” look. One of these alone might not be a big deal. But all of them put together put me on high alert. My previous pdoc, whom I saw for something like 4 years (!) was in this kind of place. Not long after I stopped seeing him, the building was sold and razed. It is now a parking lot.
- Their records are not yet electronic. Okay, this one gets me every time. It is 2019, for Pete’s sake – get with the program! My thinking is that if they’re still using paper folders to keep track of your progress, they don’t have very good business sense. Maybe they don’t have the money to upgrade, which is understandable, but electronic records are so much more convenient and easier to track patients with. My last pdoc, Dr. V., had to look through pages and pages of records in my file just to find out what psych meds I was taking every single time I saw him (he could never remember). It took up valuable time in our 10-15 minute sessions.
- Your pdoc’s office is a shambles. This one could actually go either way. In my case with Dr. V., it was a bad sign. He could never find anything, even on his desk (but it was easy to find his MENSA certificate on the wall!). But I know that some people can work just fine under these conditions. It’s your call, depending on your experience.
- Your pdoc doesn’t seem to remember much about you from appointment to appointment. This is a really bad sign! Dr. V. could never remember what drugs I was taking or the dosages, and he had to spend time looking through my file to find his notes. It’s a good thing I was on top of things.
- They will prescribe anything you ask for. If you’re an addict or alcoholic trying to stay clean and sober, be careful about this. It’s very easy to ask for a script for fun anti-anxiety drugs like Xanax or Ativan, which definitely have the possibility for abuse. Also, benzodiazepines are ripe for abuse. You don’t want to be with a pdoc who doesn’t know anything about substance abuse and addiction.
- They’re always running late. I don’t mean 5 minutes, I mean like 15 minutes or more. This, to me, speaks to their inability to be efficient during their sessions. Yes, it can be hard to keep certain people on track and not chat so much, but they are professionals and need to be able to keep things moving. Being that late, in my opinion, means they don’t respect my time.
- They don’t ask you about what’s going on in your life. Life experience plays a crucial part in mental health, and it needs to be addressed accordingly. Dr. V. rarely asked if anything was going on with me; his only focus was on my medications. This is a mistake, as he could not take into consideration whatever I was going through.
BONUS TIP: Your appointments are only scheduled for 10-15 minutes. This is a biggie for me. I know this is fairly common, as they try to see as many people as they can. Some pdocs have very full caseloads, and there is a shortage of them all over, it seems. Sometimes they get overloaded. But let me tell you, 15 minutes is definitely not enough time to talk about what’s going on, have a good discussion about your treatment, and go over your med options. One time, when I was seeing Dr. V., he actually stood up and left during the middle of something I was saying. He didn’t come back. He was waiting for me at the front desk to schedule my next appointment. I only saw him once after that and finally switched to the fabulous Dr. Nelson, who schedules half-hour appointments.
So there you have it, seven (well, eight) things I’ve experienced in my own treatment with psychiatrists and I know others have, too. By the way, you can use these guidelines for therapists, doctors, and other providers, too.
I know how much it sucks to have to shop for doctors and other providers you’re comfortable with, but it’s worth it. Your mental health is the most important thing in your life, and it needs to be treated that way.
The best way to find a provider, I think, is from recommendations from people you know. Hell, in this day of social media, even from people you don’t know. I’ve asked people on social media for recommendations for a chiropractor before and gotten several good responses.
How about you? Have you had any negative experiences during your treatment? Leave a comment, suggestion, or question and we can start a dialogue.
Thanks for reading, and, as always, keep on Keepin’ it Real.
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A version of this post was previously published on DepressionWarrior and is republished here with permission from the author.
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