December 10, 2009

10 Things I Noticed When I Visited My Shrink

I saw my shrink yesterday. This would not be notable except for the fact that I rarely see my shrink anymore. While many of you might argue about my relative mental health, my shrink and I have deemed it sufficient to space visits out quite a bit. In this case by a couple of years. It's funny, seeing my shrink, because I forget what he's really like and, instead, build some mental image of him that's about 50% bullshit, a fact I'm reminded of when a year has passed and I go see him again.

  1. My shrink isn't nearly as good looking as I give him mental credit for. He's about as tall as he is wide. Or, rather, as wide as he is tall. Whichever of these indicates that he's short and tubby.
  2. My shrink looks more like a lumberjack than someone you'd entrust with your mental well-being. We wears thick khakis, work boots and flannel shirts.
  3. For someone who has structured their entire livelihood around the organization of the mind, my shrink is distressingly disorganized. Piles - piles, not stacks - of paper are heaped upon his desk, threatening to fall on and crush anyone who happens to be standing nearby when gravity prevails. His medical degrees and citations, of which there are many, are hung on the walls haphazardly, though many are on the floor leaned against the wall.
  4. My shrink requires a lot of books to be a shrink. I'm not sure if that makes me more or less confident in his abilities.
  5. Piles of samples of anti-depressant meds are deposited in various places throughout his office. Some are in handy single packs in big Tupperware containers. It's like he decided to give anti-depressants out for Halloween but no one rang the doorbell.
  6. My shrink is obsessed with my weight. Every time I visit, he first asks that I remove my shoes and jump on a scale. I am apparently one of the only people taking the medication I'm taking who hasn't gained weight and can still get a hard-on.
  7. My shrink is clearly very bright. His degrees are everywhere and there are many of them. His citations for heading psychiatric departments across the country are bountiful. His recognition for leading big brained psychiatric groups is widespread.
  8. Despite his singular lack of organizational skills pertaining to items in the physical world, my shrink is diligent about entering all information into a vast computer database.
  9. My shrink is concerned with both air quality and temperature. He has two visible means of telling the air temperature in his office and two air purifiers.
  10. My shrink a credit card payment machine and has a sign on his desk that says We Honor Mastercard and Visa. I'm not sure what that means.
So, does it sound to you as if my shrink might need a shrink of his very own? And do you think I need a new shrink? Posted by Chris at December 10, 2009 6:23 AM

I'd say if he's gotten you where you want to be, psychiatrically speaking, then he's the shrink for you. Many highly intelligent people are absolutely chaotic in their physical "organization," and also sometimes come with a number of eccentricities (like the air purifiers & thermometers). While I might wonder if the man isn't a bit OCD himself, if he can fix whatever ails ya to your satisfaction...why mess with something that's working?

Posted by: Michelle L at December 10, 2009 7:34 AM

What I've learned is this: If he helped you get to where you are now and it's working then don't screw with it.
My shrink is far too neat for my tastes. He wears Norwegian woolen sweaters all winter in various patterns and clogs. Yes, clogs! And he sits in a rocking chair and sometimes I feel like he is falling asleep as I speak. I have this mad desire to tell him I've started pole dancing, or something like that to see if he is really awake?
Anyway, this man took me from a really tough place 10 years ago and found the medication that is right for me and I have been a happy and healthy and productive human being due to his ability to find the right med for me and then not screw with it. I only see him 4 times a year now and that is mostly to make sure that my meds are okay.

Posted by: Maribeth at December 10, 2009 7:46 AM

So he weighs you to make sure you are not gaining weight on the meds...what does he do to make sure you can still do the know...other side affect you mentioned.

Posted by: William at December 10, 2009 8:13 AM

I think most shrinks need shrinks of their own but that is only because we spend time working with them to find them jobs and the stories that dept. can tell you would make you RUN, not walk away from all shrinks, present and future. See also never send your children to child shrinks.

Posted by: Christina at December 10, 2009 8:41 AM

I'm always slightly amused that the best mental health professionals are the ones that seem like they need their own. And believe me, I've gone through a slew of them. My therapist has similar disorganizational skills. And she's kind of awesome.

Posted by: k8 at December 10, 2009 9:01 AM

I think that most shrinks become shrinks because they need one of their own. I guess that's one way to get a referral!

Posted by: Hope at December 10, 2009 9:07 AM

HA! I wouldn't trust a shrink who had a neat office. Having once been a psych major (who then realized she had no patience whatsover for whining and became a college administrator instead, joke is on ME) I firmly believe that it is a prerequisite to have piles of papers and books around. And any shrink worth his or her salt DOES have their own shrink. And I don't have any air purifiers, but I do have two different means of telling what the temperature is in my office. So WHAT?

Posted by: MidLifeMama at December 10, 2009 9:23 AM

Having worked with mental health professionals in the past, let me just say that your shrink probably already has a shrink of his own. As a matter of fact, the director of the center when I worked there did his thesis paper on how most people enter the mental health profession in an effor to find out why they themselves are so screwed up.
Also, most shrinks DO have lots of piles of paperwork and many books around. The books are actually a good thing. It means they take the intricacies of the psyche into account and are open to doing research to make sure their perception/diagnosis is correct. Books would make me more confident.
As far as the notes and weighing. It's for their case notes. They are required by their licensing boards to maintain accurate case notes or they could have their licensure pulled if there is an audit, or an occurence that would require further investigation (think suicidal ideation here). Further, if they are dispensing medication, they have an ethical obligation to ensure that they are monitoring to the best of their ability for potential side effects. This can be a gray area since they cannot know what they client will not disclose. But keeping track of tangible factors, like fluctuating weight, is usually enough for them to meet this requiremnt.

All in all, sounds like you have a diligent, and conscientious Dr. Congratulations!

Posted by: varinia` at December 10, 2009 9:27 AM

It's like he decided to give anti-depressants out for Halloween but no one rang the doorbell. <---dangit why didn't I knock on his door :P
(Ah, what do I care, I'm Canadian - free drugs! w00t)
For myself, I think I need to get worse at "faking it" - because I've been declared "okay" several times, knowing that I really wasn't.

Posted by: Heather at December 10, 2009 9:28 AM

as a psych prof once told me, most people who go into psych do it to fix themselves. :D it's my understanding that most shrinks have shrinks. or someone who they can confide in. it's gotta be a tough job.

Posted by: patricia at December 10, 2009 9:45 AM

To my knowledge, shrinks are kind of required to have their own. I think. Idk. When I had a therapist, he always asked me why I was crying. Like, have you been LISTENING to what I've been saying, dude? My psych was a child psych, so being in his office was weird. Also, he gave me the creeps.

Posted by: Sparkle Pants at December 10, 2009 9:56 AM

I think you just ask this question for comments. ;)

Got to see a doctor myself on Tuesday...

Posted by: alektra at December 10, 2009 10:16 AM

Don't most shrinks have shrinks? They do in the movies and TV.

No one on the Internet knows the answer to the second question. You might. Your wife definitely does.

Posted by: Brad at December 10, 2009 10:56 AM

I'm with everyone who says if he's working for you, go with it. I haven't seen my shrink in months because, frankly, I don't have the money, but also frankly, he never tells me anything I don't already know. That's not to say he's not a good shrink; but I am really in touch with myself and I have a BA in Psych. I see him periodically for a perspective check, to make sure I'm not just a megalomaniac who can't get along with anyone.

My shrink looks like Jimmy Buffett, I shit you not, and never writes anything down but always seems to know what we've been talking about. I love my shrink, actually. He's my Dad's age, but I think we are simpatico and could be friends if he weren't my therapist.

Posted by: Brooke at December 10, 2009 12:43 PM

I am sure your shrink has a shrink. Or at least has had one in the past.

I only see my shrink about one a year as well.

Posted by: Jodi at December 10, 2009 3:46 PM

I think shrinks are required to see their own shrinks. It strikes me as something that would be incredibly necessary.

I see a shrink annually, the same one I've been seeing for ~6 years now. The first year, we talked at least once, but usually twice a week. I've never lived anywhere near his office and have had to fly to see him every single time we've met face-to-face (it's all a long story). The thought of starting over with another shrink makes my skin crawl. Actually, the very idea of rehashing the entire narrative for someone else that I might not be compatible with makes me want to throw myself into a wood chipper. Which I suppose could be viewed as a cry for help.

Posted by: You can call me, 'Sir' at December 10, 2009 3:51 PM

My shrink has says he has to see me at least once every 6 months - I would love to go to the every couple of years method. I would also like to be able to skype w/my shrink. His office is a bit of a hike - esp. since our conversation is only ever about 15 minutes long...

He looks pretty normal - but I can't help but wonder if he is gay. He is mid-30's - no wedding ring - no pictures of signifcant others...I can't hlep but wonder - and yet I know it would be highly inappropriate to ask...

Posted by: Amy at December 10, 2009 4:16 PM

I would question what's in all the piles. Are they medical files? If so how would you feel if someone could just wander by and read your file? The meds all around is kind of disturbing as well.... I thought the point of going to a shrink is to calm yourself and sort out your thoughts. Isn't it kind of hard to do that in such a cluttered environment? Not that I'm one to judge since I feel like I live among piles because I have an office renovation going on, but I'm not inviting paying clients into my home....

Posted by: Rose Winters at December 10, 2009 6:41 PM

Hmmm, I wouldn't want to have dated my shrink -- there were lots of things about her personally that got my side-eye -- but she got the job done. So unless the disorganization bothers you enough that you can't concentrate, then I wouldn't think it's a problem.

Personally, I'm a freakishly organized person who is fascinated by people who can live with piles. It would drive me crazy to be that way, but some extremely creative people seem to thrive within their messes.

Posted by: Laura at December 10, 2009 8:12 PM

I think most doctors have issues with organization. A cluttered desk is a sign of a genius.

Posted by: DCUrbanDad at December 10, 2009 10:51 PM

My sister is a shrink, so I have some personal knowledge on this subject.

1) Most shrinks see a shrink, so he probably already has one...

2) He sounds pretty typical actually...most shrinks live so much in their heads (and other people's) that they forget about the basic things in the physical world. My sister is brilliant and REALLY good at her job, but the clutter that is her office/home is unreal!

Posted by: Kris H. at December 11, 2009 10:02 AM

please send me your shrink's address. I will be visiting next october. Tupperware containers of meds just made me laugh out loud and then look around my office and realize that all my right angled books and files probably says very very bad things about my mental stability...

Posted by: jeanne at December 11, 2009 2:25 PM

As far as the books are concerned, worry not there my friend. Psych books are extremely expensive, and don't sell back for much in school. After a bachelor's and a master's degree in psychology, I quite literally have around 75 books I had to buy just for that. I can't imagine medical school and then actually practicing for a while. You just... collect books.

Posted by: caleal at December 11, 2009 7:14 PM

As someone who is currently pursuing a graduate degree to become what you call a "shrink," I just gotta make a comment about the books - that is a very good thing. That means that your "shrink" doesn't think he knows everything and has something to fall back on if he forgets something or needs clarification. Trust me, that's important.

But yeah - in two years I will have my masters degree in mental health counseling and all of his behavior seems perfectly normal to me :)

Posted by: Stephanie at December 11, 2009 9:07 PM

If I told you that the nervous system of the therapist is the single most important factor contributing to change in the client, would you still choose your current therapist? That's what neuroscience is suggesting, the better emotionally regulated that your therapist is, the better he or she can help you manage your emotions.

Therapy that depends solely on left brain "talk" will not change the reptilian/limbic parts of the brain. They require an experience - that's just the way it works.

Stacks of paper and things not dealt with strongly suggest someone who isn't on top their own stuff. He's also is not aware how clients who suffer from trauma find stacks of paper disruptive.

Look for a warm, inviting, clean, clutterless - not obsessively so - consultation office and you're a little closer to finding a therapist that knows how attune to clients.

It's attunement with clients where the real benefits from therapy arise from.


Posted by: Shrinklady at January 9, 2010 5:02 PM

Stacks of papers also suggest barriers to showing up. If your therapist isn't "showing up" how can real deep change occur.

When we de-clutter, the energy starts to move and when this happens so do we.

Dr. Carole

Posted by: Carole Gaato at January 9, 2010 8:41 PM