Shop-A-Doc Part 2
How Do I Find A Good Psychiatrist?
What I plan to do here is give you some Do's and Don'ts
for finding a good psychiatrist/therapist etc. and also a bit of
legal philosophy regarding what is known as "informed
consent" and how it relates to your mental well-being.
What To Do:
Where to Look:
- Find some good support groups and ask for recommendations or referrals
from members who have expressed satisfaction with their doctors. You'll
find a number of such groups in the Online/Offline
Groups Section of this site. You may as well not bother with
requesting a referral from medical associations, most research facilities
or universities. Most won't make referrals and in any case, word of
mouth from those who are familiar with what it means to deal with
this disorder is a far more reliable guide.
- If you are looking for a doctor, but are already diagnosed and have
had problems with finding a mix of medications that will stabilise
you, then consider seeking a psychopharmacologist. This physician
is specially trained in psychopharmacology and the use of psychotropic
drugs so he/she is more likely to be attuned to someone (some rapid-cyclers
for instance) who is having a particularly hard time with a drug regimen.
If you have difficulty locating one of these doctors, try the local
research institute at the university nearest you. It's also wise to
inquire regularly as to the possibilities of participating in ongoing
clinical trials for bipolar disorder. If your form of the disorder
is, or has been, particularly difficult to treat, participation in
clinical/research trials may be one way to get some specialized, highly
Partners in Therapy:
- If you have a therapist you are comfortable with and are seeking
a new psychiatrist, be sure to ask how he/she feels about working
with a therapist in a team manner. Some doctors aren't amenable to
outside intervention or even information, though such are rare. Better
to check and make sure rather than find yourself in the position of
having to choose between a good talk-therapist you are happy with
and a new pdoc. Conversely, the same holds true if you are seeking
a new talk-therapist. They will need to work with your psychiatrist,
and it's essential they have a teamwork- attitude about mental health
- You need to find out what the governing body for psychiatrists is
in your country. In the US it is the APA. In Australia, you must look
in the white pages under Australian Medical Association
which will then list the office to contact in your state. You should
call them and check out what they have on record about your potential
doctor. They will be able to tell you if there have been any complaints
filed against them and whether they are licensed to practice medicine
in your area. Furthermore, should you ever have need to file a formal
complaint against your doctor, this is just one of the places you
will need to go to. If nothing else, it means your complaint is on
record should you need evidence in court or for other purposes. As
distasteful as it is to think of such possibilities, it is far better
to be aware than to be caught unawares and vulnerable.
What NOT To Do:
The Yellow-Pages Walk:
- While the trusty yellow pages of your local phone book might be
useful for finding a veterinarian for your pooch, it's a pretty poor
way to find a doctor. Use them as a resource for getting some potential
names and phone numbers, but don't arbitrarily let your fingers walk
you into big trouble.
While you are cruising those phone pages, be sure to cruise down
under mental health resources as well. Chances are pretty good you'll
find support groups with addresses and phone numbers. Attend a meeting
and ask about some of the physicians you found in the phone book.
Take notes--more than one bad report is cause for caution if not
out and out alarm. If you can't locate a support group for manic-depression
you can always email me,
and I will hit the information highway on a search in your behalf.
Of course, to hedge your bet, join an online support group (like
FyrenIyce) as well.
The System As Enemy
Asking HOW one finds a good doctor presupposes
one has a choice in who that person might be. Unfortunately for many of
us, that may not be the case. If you are beholden to the government for
aid, it may be that you'll be forced to take whomever is available and
not always the same doctor each time. If you belong to an insurance scheme
that limits your choices to their list of available psychiatrists,
then again, the choice you make is not a free one.
You Be The Judge:
- While it is always a wise move to listen to the advice of others,
especially well-informed others, in the final analysis, the choice
of doctor and treatment parameters is yours. As I mentioned above,
sometimes our choices are constrained by circumstances considerably
out of our control, but even within a constricted sense of choice,
there is still a choice to be had. Here's what I mean by this statement...
If you don't have an assertive bone in your body, this will be
difficult and will require you to steel your nerves to follow the
advice. Don't allow yourself to be silenced by institutions, their
employees, your doctor or your family. Stand up for yourself and
demand again and again that you be listened to. It is NOT
always the case that others know better than you what YOU ought
to do! True, if you are terribly ill and no longer capable
of making decisions, then you must rely on your advocates
to argue on your behalf. All the more reason why I say it is only
the most ignorant (or most socially deprived) of persons who would
fail to have an advocate (or several) to guard their interests.
What this advice boils down to is really a pretty simple dictum:
Be assertive in your needs, be verbal and clear about what is working
and what isn't in your treatment, think for yourself and listen
to your body, take responsibility for your choices -good or bad-
and learn from them, and finally, consent to nothing until
you have been fully informed in language (or a language) you can
understand. If you don't understand the words used by your
doctor or any other official-type person, then you are not,
and have not been, informed! Demand that every aspect of
your treatment, hospitalisation, etc. is completely explained in
terms you comprehend.
This way to some additional advice from the National
Depressive and Manic-Depressive Association. [LINK]