Friday, September 28, 2012

My First Encounter with my Clinical Psychologist

By Philip Fleming

When my doctor said he was referring me to a clinical psychologist, I nearly flipped out. I told him, "I'm not crazy!" and he laughed. He then tried to calm me down to explain that the anxiety attacks I was having during the last six months needed a doctor with different expertise since there is a mental aspect of its root cause that I needed to check out, and someone in the mental health field may help me with the problem, not because that I was 'crazy'.

I didn't listen to the doctor at that point.

Because I didn't listen, I refused to follow his recommendation, and I ended up coping with the anxiety attacks myself. I kept repeating the words "I'm not crazy!" to myself like some kind of mantra, but it didn't help and no matter what I tried, the anxiety attacks continued, and in fact continued to get worse.

I decided to go back to my doctor in hopes of a prescription for some treatment, pill, or anything that would require me to not go through the humiliation of seeing the shrink. When I told him that, he sat me down and gave me a stern talking to.

"A clinical psychologist is not a psychotherapist" he told me firmly. "What you are not going to do is telling everything that is going on to someone that will say to come back next week for another session. Yes, clinicians deal with mental illnesses, but they also deal with disorders that have their root cause in the mind. If you broke your leg, you wouldn't go to an ear, nose, and throat doctor to have him patch you up, would you? This situation is pretty much the same idea. Certain problems and conditions will be rooted in the mind, and it is inevitable. You are not considered crazy because of this. It only means that in order to recover, you need a doctor who can understand the mind." He then told me, in no uncertain terms, that he would not see me again for these same symptoms until I had consulted with a clinician.

Soon after, I hesitantly made my appointment after swallowing my pride. The visit was completely different to what I was expecting. Within two sessions, the psychologist had helped me to figure out the root cause of my anxiety attacks and had prescribed a course of treatment to help me face down the fear that was keeping me up at nights and causing me to clam up whenever confronted by a challenging task. He was professional and thorough, and as I began to reclaim my personal power it occurred to me to wonder, why is it that so many people have such a skewed perception of the world of mental health practitioners?

Does the 'rugged individualism' trait embedded in most Americans play a role in it because they believe that they can do it on their own without being reliant on anyone or anything? Or is it more likely the fact that we see the concept of mental health portrayed by Hollywood as being synonymous with mental illness?

During one session with my clinician, I asked him the question, and he tries to explain it to me. The clinician proceeded with the explanation about how medicine has been around for at least hundreds, if not, thousands of years for treatment of any complaint and illness, whereas the idea of the mind needing separate treatments and attention is a fairly new idea. The concept was only looked at for over a hundred years, and before then, the mind, thoughts, and perception of reality was not something to talk about as it was related to religion and mysticism in the past.

Clinical psychologists are still paving their road into the medical field, and I feel that it is a necessary one because my anxiety attacks deteriorated over the last few months of treatment. I have also gained a new respect for the world of mental health and what it has to offer.

About the Author:

No comments: