Psychotherapy Blog

 

It's the Psychiatric Meds, Stupid!

Posted by Howard Rosenthal, EdD on 10/10/10 - 10:13 PM
I was getting ready to close up shop and leave my practice for the day when my secretary announced that one of my clients was in the waiting room in a hysterical panic pleading for a session with me. This came as somewhat of a shock to me inasmuch as I felt this client was actually progressing quite well.  I told my secretary to send her right in.

The client was crying so hard I could barely understand her verbalizations, but strangely enough the precipitating incident was a visit to her psychiatrist's office. As she calmed down I got the gory details. The client told her psychiatrist that she was doing extremely well.  That's a good thing, right? She then went on to explain that her therapy sessions with me were very helpful and thus she had turned her life around.

Her psychiatrist responded with a sinister chuckle and told her in no uncertain terms that her that the therapy sessions with me had done nothing. Instead, he suggested, she had been the victim of a nasty chemical imbalance and that the psychiatric medicines he prescribed had made all the difference. My client balked at the idea, stating that she made some cognitive and behavioral changes as a result of the psychotherapy and that his biochemical explanation was totally negating her work in the process. The psychiatrist's anger then began to escalate and he became louder and more belligerent. He insisted that the therapy and the client's volition had nothing to do with it.

The session reached a point of no return when the psychiatrist took her chart and physically hurled at her (wasn't that professional?) as he yelled, "If you really believe it was the therapy and not the psychiatric medication then go find yourself another psychiatrist." He then stomped out of the room. Since I'm a card carrying therapist in good standing please indulge me as I paraphrase the good doctor, "It's the psychiatric meds stupid!" This served as the trigger for my client breaking down and coming to see me. (Hmm? If you have a gander at one of your behavioral science dictionaries, I've got this uncanny notion the term iatrogenic illness will ring a bell here.)

I agreed with my client that counseling and therapy had been very valuable to her. Nonetheless, since I was the therapist at the center of this battle royale I just I had to know how she knew for sure—I mean 100% sure—that the medicine didn't make all or part of the difference.

"Oh that's easy," said the client as her face instantaneously blossomed into an ear-to-ear grin, "he's been giving me those pills for three years and I've never swallowed a single tablet."
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