A number of years ago, my psychiatrist Dr. Bob bought a large painting at a local art college show and hung it on a prominent wall in his office. It’s quite startling. All rich and lustrous purples and blacks and greys ~ many shades of grey ~ it features huge silver lettering that says in script ~ “I need you.”
He and I often discuss the meaning of that painting, although not until recently did I begin to really understand it. Here’s what Dr. Bob and I have concluded, thus far.
When you begin psychotherapy, most often it’s because you feel you need it. Or someone suggests you need it. But, as time goes on, as you evolve, gain insights and the layers of your onion begin to peel away, eventually, often, you begin to want your psychotherapy. Thrive on it.
I know I do. I look forward to my sessions with Dr. Bob and I’m not the only of his very long term patients.
(Yes, I use the term “patient” because in psychotherapy and in the Canadian medical health system, you must to learn to be patient. Everything demands waiting. I have no trouble with that term. I detest the term “client” as I do not see psychotherapy as a business transaction. I also detest the term “consumer,” which to me sounds like someone who loves to shop and/or eat. Also, I do not like “consumer survivor,” which sounds like you’ve managed to come home safely with your credit card and your purchases intact after a one-day super sale of 95% off all merchandise at Saks Fifth Avenue.
I apologize to those of you who are insulted by my political incorrectness, but that’s how I see it. I am quite comfortable being a patient. I’m a kidney transplant patient, so why would I not be a psychiatric patient of Dr. Bob’s?)
As I approach my 50th anniversary in psychotherapy…
That’s where I’m right now with Dr. Bob. He and I have been working together for 20 years. I had another psychiatrist for 16 years and a variety of other therapists over the years.
Very few people understand why I still go. Why I want to go.
Last Monday’s session was a prime example. Lately, I’ve been seeing Dr. Bob every week because of the chaos in my life with selling our house, buying another and moving, all whilst teaching and blogging.
I need his support right now because I’m feeling fragile. He thinks I’m enormously resilient. News to me.
There are times, when I don’t see him for months. Other times, like this one, where there is so much upheaval in my life, I need that weekly hour during which I learn so much.
Last Monday, I asked him a question, right at the beginning of our hour.
“How are psychiatrists trained these days?”
What is their training like?
Dr. Bob, an associate professor at the University of Toronto in the Faculty of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry, works at a major teaching hospital where he’s clinical director heading the inpatient unit. He trains psychiatric residents.
“Comfortable with ambiguity…”
“When I was in training,” which was back in the 1970s, “it was expected that a psychiatric resident would be comfortable with ambiguity,” he said.
This statement reminded me of something another psychiatrist I know has written. It reflects his philosophy of psychiatry and psychotherapy ~ very much like Dr. Bob’s ~ and he’s a contributor to Psych Central’s World of Psychology. Ronald Pies, MD is a clinical and research psychiatrist at Tufts University and the State University of New York in Syracuse. He teaches and has written widely on psychiatry, psychopharmacology and philosophy. His “scribblings” as he calls them also include a volume of poetry and short stories. Like Dr. Bob, he is genuine and generous, brilliant and wise.
Dr. Pies mentioned recently that he’s slowly winding down his psychiatric career to pursue his other passion ~ writing, Jewish philosophy and ethics. We’ve spoken and exchanged ideas about the current state of psychiatry today. He just stepped down as Editor-in-Chief of Psychiatric Times, the largest online journal of psychiatry in the world.
“The Science of Language…”
Dr. Pies has described psychiatry as “the science of language.”
Continued in Part Two…