22 September 2016

The Shame Game or how to lose a crappy psychologist in six sessions or less

This story highlights the fact that there are a great number of shitty mental health professionals out there:

9 women share horror stories about being shamed for their mental health — by doctors

I think it is my fate to have met most of them.
This is a big one

As I read this story, I recalled some of these things happening to me or variations thereof but for women, apparently, it's much worse since many in the 'caring professions' don't take them seriously.

Of course, this reminded me of the near shouting match I got into with my last dud of a psychologist. It was not the first time I have left a psychologist under less than cordial conditions.

And I offered a little advice about feeling out your counselor early in the sessions to see what their basic outlook on life is to include politics, religion, social values, etc. Because believe me, if you believe that being totally honest with your shrink and that honesty reflects something opposite of their belief system, you cannot trust that they will remain impartial.

Shocking, isn't it? No, not really. Many people get into the 'caring professions' because they are as fucked up as their patients. Many of them are social voyeurs and many of them also like the power trip of playing puppet master with someone's life. And, for the most part, it's relatively easy work if you're into that sort of thing.

The worst part, as always, is paperwork and paying malpractice insurance. Understand that it's incredible difficult to win a lawsuit against a psychologist because, well, they're good at obfuscation and the burden of proof is very high.

So my advice is this:

1. DO research your potential psychologist or psychiatrist online. Believe half of what you read from both the counselor's write up (my God how some of them lie!) and the reviews from patients. Remember the truth lies somewhere in the middle and it is up to you to make that call.

2. Take careful note of the kind of practice they have? Do they specialize in adult, senior or child psychology?

3. In the same vein, read what conditions they say they specialize in. This has become less useful as time has gone by since to practice build they need to pretty much list every condition they spent a chapter in school studying to get as many prospective clients as possible. Once you're on their couch they can wing it (books, Internet, etc.) You, nine times out of 10, won't be any the wiser. After all, you're in distress and they're the professional.

4. Forget about finding any lawsuits, board actions or any other sanctions. They aren't there.

5. For God's sake, make sure they accept your insurance before you go - and even then, double check it with your insurance company. I had a very nasty experience with one charlatan who flatly stated they accepted my insurance at 1 p.m. on the afternoon I finalized my appointment, but once I got on her couch, all of the sudden, I found out she didn't accept my insurance. She had four hours to call and tell me this but chose not to, instead, she tried to work out some kind of deal with me in the therapy room. It sounded like I was arguing with a car salesman and I literally fled the place.

6. Ever have a friend say to you I have such a great shrink - she'd be great for you - you must see her? Um, no. Don't. Each person is a whole different kettle of neurons and you don't want a friendship to come between you and a counselor.

Upon entering their office:

7. If they have 'Psychology Today' on the coffee table, leave immediately. No self-respecting therapist should read or foist that trash on anyone.

8. Note how you are greeted. Do they seem warm (remember how easy it is to fake sincerity though)? Or, do they seem distracted and treat you like another profit center? Shrinks who work for HMOs are notorious for this.

9. Don't be put off by the paperwork. They ALL have to have you sign disclosure statements. BUT if they drop them in your lap with a pen and don't go over them with you, that's a big red flag.

10. Set parameters of what you want to accomplish first. You have some basic issues and you're counselor should have some ideas about how to treat them. Make sure you are comfortable with their approach. Your gut is really the best judge. If things seem creepy and off, they probably are. What do you hope to achieve in therapy, is an honest first question. Tell me about your relationship with your mother, is not.

11. There is a delicate balance between talking and listening. The longer I saw my last psychologist, the more red flags went up in my head since I was doing 98 percent of the talking. I would come in, she would ask so how are you doing today, and then listen to me ramble on uninterrupted for most of the session. If you ask your counselor to respond to something you said, or you ask them a question and they turn it back on you or brush it off or give short non-answers, you have a problem. They're cashing your insurance company's check and you're providing entertainment.

12. If they're advice doesn't seem to make sense for your situation, tell them why. If they get arrogant about it, that's a good sign that it's time to leave. If at any time you feel you're being intimidated to accept any course of treatment - LEAVE! Just because you have a mental illness does not mean you can't trust your instincts. OK, sometimes, but rarely.

13. This should go without saying but nowadays one must: no touching, no suggestions of sex with you (don't laugh, the great M. Scott Peck has sex with his clients - he should have been thrown in jail not given book deals), I mean any violation of your personal space means it's time to leave - NOW! In some cases dealing with sexual abuse, certain probing questions about one's sexual practices may be fair game - but not when you're presenting for Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

14. Never commit to any number of sessions. Ever. If you feel you are being pressured to do so, leave. Committing to a number of sessions is a guilt trip mechanism designed to keep you on the couch long after you're so uncomfortable with your therapist the thought of going there makes you break out in hives. Basically, you're making their car payments.

15. If they're selling you their books, methods, tapes, keychains, etc. Leave. Not professional.

16. This one is going to upset some people but here goes: if you are a gun owner DENY IT if asked and don't ever bring it up unasked. With some counselors, at that point, you have been tried, convicted and sentenced in their mind as some kind of dangerous lunatic who either has a warped idea of manhood or is turned on by phallic symbolism. Or a Republican. Any which way, any useful therapy just ended and now you are a target.

17. Always remember YOU are the one in charge and YOU are the one determining whether is counselor is right for you (unless of course, you say you're going to kill yourself or someone else - don't do that). If at some time, a counselor says they are not right for you, don't argue - they are doing you a favor. BUT - if they give you referrals, never use them. It's just their friends passing people around. Go back to your own research.

Well, I'm sure I'm missing a few but these are based on my own decades of experience and your mileage of course, may vary. In any case, should you decide on seeking counseling, and you forget everything else I've written, remember this: let the first few sessions truly be a feeling out time where you determine your level of trust and comfort. When you're convinced you've reached that point, then you can go on about why you're bothered that your spouse allows the dog in the bedroom during sex.