26 minutes | Nov 22, 2018

How Does a Psychiatrist Do Their Job? [Episode 3]

As a caregiver, you are practically trained by the mental healthcare world to be an outsider in the treatment process for someone you love.  You didn’t ask to be marginalized, and you weren’t told your participation is unwelcome.  This just happened; but how?  Because the mental healthcare world does a poor job explaining how it does its job AND that includes explaining how you can actually help them do their job. And it doesn’t help that you, the family caregiver, are so overwhelmed watching someone’s life fall apart that you don’t even know what to ask or how to participate.  I think we are also trained in life to defer to doctors and the medical profession (there was a time in this country when nurses all stood up when a doctor entered a hospital nurses’ station; imagine that.) But your job is to “pierce the veil” and understand how they think, assess, and formulate their opinions.  So I asked a national expert who trains psychiatrists, Dr Paul McHugh at Johns Hopkins, to explain how he trains psychiatrists to think and validate family caregivers as meaningful participants in treatment planning. Your knowledge and “front line” experience caring for or parenting that patient is relevant and necessary to the psychiatrist’s assessments.  And you are a valid partner in that process. But behaving like a valid participant starts with acknowledging yourself as a relevant, necessary reporter to the people providing care for your family. And it is critical for your own welfare to be able to practice objectivity and distance like the doctor or therapist does.  Being emotionally overwhelmed hurts your quality of life AND your ability to be a quality participant in helping the mental healthcare providers do their best work for someone you love.
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