I thought it would be helpful and informative to share good/bad psychiatrist or therapist stories.
We’ll start out with my experiences…
My first experience with treatment was at the mental health clinic at the local hospital. I was fairly indifferent toward the first psychiatrist I had there, but I was unpleasantly jarred to find out that he was leaving after six months. Apparently they were on some sort of rotation. When I walked into the new psychiatrist’s office, I immediately got a bad feeling. It looked like he felt this was a temporary situation, as the office was completely bare except for the desk and two chairs.
The reason for my visit was to ask him to raise my medication, as I was feeling the familiar signs of depression after being fairly stable for a year. He never even looked at me, and only asked me one question to determine whether I was depressed again or not, “Do you have thoughts of harming yourself or others?” I said, “Well, no, but I never have, so that’s not really an indication for me.” He ignored all the signs of depression I was recounting and refused to raise my medication. I absolutely hated him, and wouldn’t go back until he was gone six months later.
This time when I walked into the new psychiatrist’s office I was very wary, but the difference he had made in that cold office was amazing. I’m a little fuzzy on the specifics, but I immediately noticed that the place smelled great. He had air fresheners in the office that made you want to inhale when you walked in. He had prints on the walls and (I’m pretty sure) healthy plants. I may be just remembering the plants because he was such a nurturing person. He also had a photo of himself with a child on his bulletin board, which I took as a good sign. He was very accessible, listened to me, and ordered a blood test to find out the level of meds in my blood, which indeed was too low. He stayed longer than six months before moving on, and I was very sorry to see him go.
I had trouble with severe mood swings for years and my condition was getting worse. Upon finding out that several close relatives were bipolar, I did some research and found that without a doubt I had the symptoms. I took my information and family history to a local psychiatrist. He stated with sarcasm, “If you went out and bought five Corvettes I’d believe you were bipolar, but you’re not.” I believed him, left and did not seek any further treatment as I descended deeper into a horrible depression. Finally I went to a local clinic, and talked to a nurse practitioner who believed me enough to give me a trial of lithium. Literally within days I rounded a corner. The medication literally saved my life. The moral of the story for me is; if at first you don’t get listened to, keep looking until you do. Also, I’d rather talk to a nurse who listens than an MD who doesn’t. – Kate from Idaho
OK, finally…I put off suicide until I could at least get in to see the psychiatrist. The Paxil that my GI put me on isn’t working. I’m slipping down a drain. I had 1 1/2 hours of sleep last night and in another 2 hours I have to go to work. But….I went to the shrink today like I promised. Told him of my plans to end it. Told him how close I came. Told him I was already dead inside. Told him I had 2 hours of sleep and had to work again. I told him I can hardly get through a day anymore. He said “increase the paxil to 1 1/2 tabs and come back in a month”. Oh well. I didn’t deserve the help anyway. – angelica
About six years ago I was suffering from incredible depression. (I have since been diagnosed w/Borderline Personality Disorder, and depression comprises only a part of this). At any rate, because I was cutting myself, wanting to die, and locking myself in my apartment for weeks at a time (where I would sleep for days on end), my employer (who happened to be my church–I was a church secretary) demanded that I see the licensed family therapist they had on staff. I went. He looked like a dish of spumoni–he wore mixed pastels (polyester), and a horrifyingly bad toupee. On top of everything else, he told me (I am quoting here), that I was evil, that God was protecting other people from me, and that he felt sorry for anyone who knew me because I really was a bad person. This, said to a severely depressed person by a supposed professional, is BAD. I quit seeing him, obviously.
Here’s the REALLY juicy part: he then attempted to blackmail me with my patient records, which he said (I’m quoting again) that he would keep for his own protection, in case I said anything unflattering about him. He said he would make those records public if anything bad I said got back to him. I have since found out that in my state, ANYBODY can be a “licensed family therapist”, just by paying a fee for the license. Scary, huh? (NOTE: this loser has since been taken off the church staff, and I have long since gotten some QUALIFIED help. And I had a Government agency confiscate my records from his office–with my permission, because I work for a defense contractor and had to obtain a security clearance. I have no idea how many other people this pig damaged, though.)
– Anita from Alabama
After reading your story, I started to think about my psych, he’s from India, he thinks I’m really off my rocker. He tells me to do other things from what my therapist tells me, and I think he uses me for his guinea pig. He’s been trying to start me on some of the strangest meds, and all I want to do was to get my Effexor refilled. Then he gave me a 2-week supply, but this medicine takes effect in about 30 days. When I go back and see him, what does he do, he prescribes me something else. I’m going to find another psych and keep my therapist. She’s more understanding of my problem. – Tom
Even though I had had depression for years and mild mania, I started off with a psychologist who did not refer me to a psychiatrist until it got so bad I had to be hospitalized. Thankfully, the psychiatrist knew what he was doing (actually at that point it had become quite obvious). So he became my doctor for the last 6 years and was great. Except in October he was too close to a tree that got hit by lightning and he had to stop practicing while they evaluated him. The doctor he left as a back-up was “too busy” for any sessions. I had to go out and interview doctors. That was fun. Finally, my doctor’s office called me and told me to call this other doctor, that he would see me. Well, he started off the conversation stating he was a “mood expert” and started diagnosing me over the phone. He tells me I have to increase my medications and I have to be totally reevaluated and maybe hospitalized (a week before the holidays). I told him that I had no problem raising the medication and that he would find that I took my medications as I was told. He actually said “That’s an oxymoron.” After that experience, I did the incredible. I actually called the insurance company and asked them to find me a doctor. They did, he was nice and he took care of me until my old doctor came back. No, I never did make my appointment with the “mood expert”. You should always interview a “doctor” before actually going into their office. In this state, a doctor has the power to hospitalize you if they think you are in danger or a danger to others. – Lourdes from Miami
I knew I had a bad shrink when he called me at home on Saturday morning to ask me my advice for how he should deal with his problems with his girlfriend. — Eee-gads! – Meg
It was my first experience with a psychiatrist, but I knew it was a mess when one of his assistants/office staff/next door neighbors/whatever kept walking into the office. On the second visit, the doctor spent most of his time on the phone with apparently his stock broker as they were talking all about money, selling this, buying that, etc. Needless to say, I did not go back, and shortly after that he was arrested for DWI and essentially run out of town on a rail. (Turns out I was not the only person that he’d “ignored” in favor of his stock broker.) Current primary care doctor wants me to see a psychiatrist again, and after one bad experience, I’m not sure this is a good idea. I called the insurance company just to clarify what the benefits were. Turns out that they really don’t want you to use their “mental health services.” I can’t use any doctor in the plan, nope, it has to be one who is also in their “merit services” program (which probably means money in one way or another). My other doctors (primary care doctor, orthopod, etc.) are located at the biggest hospital in the area — but none of their “merit services” people are, and they could only give me two names of anyone in town that I could *maybe* see! Needless to say, I won’t be seeing a psychiatrist, and I’m not terribly upset about that! – Laurie
When I first met Dr. X I had an almost unwelcome feeling. I felt like I should be paying for his services and only then he would treat me like I worthy of his therapy. Anyway, I told him that I wanted some sort of psychotherapy rather than drugs because of sideffects, etc. Although he listened to me he decided that drugs would be most useful in this case. Well I didn’t take them, but I did continue to see him. Being a psychology student I am sure my beliefs about drugs were emanating from my psyche. With time, however, I gained respect for this person with a British accent and snotty attitude. When he started sharing some of his personal history and I found that we had a bit of history in common I began to trust him. I guess trust was a real issue for me. I began taking the meds and gradually became healthier. We developed a bit of a friendship which was in the end briskly cut off by him. I guess because he didn’t want me to become too dependent on this one and only friendship. Anyway I still hear his voice once in while and find comfort in knowing that he knew me enough to get me to help myself.
I have been having a hell of a time, lately, with psychiatrists (i.e., finding one and keeping one) during this last bout of depression. My heart sinks when I walk into a practitioner’s office and it barely looks as if they write scripts there. We probably just can’t help it, but women are probably more sensitive to this. The past two pdocs I’ve seen (and didn’t go back to when I couldn’t take it anymore) hardly looked at me, either, except to say “these are the rules” type statements and ask me if was suicidal. Funny thing – it made no difference in their reaction if I said I was suicidal or swore I wasn’t. Not really very humorous. The psychiatrist I saw previously was (is!) a real human being, who listened, empathized, and did his damnedest to help me feel that I too, am a human being, defects and all. He had an office with “real” furniture, old worn oriental carpets, real works of art, including that of friends of mine. Offices of both my current individual therapist and someone my husband and I see occasionally are warm, inviting, not fancy, but with pictures of both their kids and “artwork” done by the same. In other words, if they see themselves as human beings, perhaps they can give us the same courtesy. I resolve to walk right out of the “robot” practitioner’s offices as soon as I walk in from now on! Our instincts may be all we have left….
I have been to untold numbers of these people over the last 5 years that I have been suffering from depression. One told me that I could blame it all on my parents and that I should let them know. (Thank God that I did not do so). The next one would give me a depression test every week that I saw him. He placed me on different drugs over the years, all with the same results, but at least the data was of use.
I then found a good man who showed me how to use my brain to help control the pain in my left arm. Two years of little depression. Then he had a stroke. Depression back. Back to other psychiatrist, still more drugs.
Then last year a breakdown in public; result pending police charges (a man with one good arm with two assault police charges), depression deeper, placed in a psych hospital; depression even deeper.
Then my good man came to my rescue, got me out of the hospital and he now treats me (at no charge), ring or visit him at any time.
I refer to the first 3 psychiatrists I saw as quacks #1, #2, and #3. I suffer from severe, chronic clinical depression and have tried nearly every psychiatric medicine known with no permanent success. I was referred to the psychiatrists I saw by an EAP. It turns out that the only requirement to get on the EAP’s list was that these providers apply and send in copies of their licenses.
Quack #1 was relatively innocuous. She prescribed a combination of two tricyclics which gave me severe anxiety attacks. Every other doctor I have seen wonders why she combined those two drugs as no one seems to have ever heard of using them together. She left the area before doing any more damage.
Quack #2 apparently did not believe in taking blood levels. I wound up in the hospital (not once, but twice) with toxic blood levels at therapeutic dosages of the antidepressant I was taking. I later found out that that was not unheard of for those particular drugs.
Quack #3 used to fall asleep in therapy sessions and would tell me it was because my monotone voice put him to sleep. When I finally got angry enough to fire him, he told me I was leaving because we were finally getting to the root of my problems and I was afraid to address my issues. When I asked him what those issues were, he said that I needed to discover them myself.
I think I know she’s a good therapist because, when friends/family ask how my session went or what my therapist thinks of me, I can’t really give them a pat answer. In other words, she isn’t authoritative or didactic. She listens, responds non-verbally, and then when I’m finished with my latest spiel, she asks me questions about how what I’ve just said relates to past sessions, relationships, my experiences growing up, etc. It feels as if she is quite solidly on my side, no matter what, and I trust her. I’ve described our sessions as my weekly anchor to sanity (no advice from well-meaning friends, no belligerent orders to stop my behaviors, no fear or frenzy for one hour a week…).
I used to be very suspicious of therapy, I think, because of the bad press it gets in our culture. I assimilated this and thought of myself as a spoiled white female who couldn’t solve her petty problems and who wanted to run to therapy (even though she wasn’t “bad enough” to deserve treatment) so someone else could run her life. So I raged and screamed to get attention from my parents (alcoholic father, shy and enabling mother), fell into deep depressions at my lack of perfection, and cut my arm repeatedly to put my anger and pain into a place I could focus on.
Now I feel as if my life is my own and I don’t want to spend another second feeling bitter or loathing myself. I just want new tools and perspectives so I can keep searching. I take 50 to 100mg of zoloft daily (I also take short breaks from it as I see fit–my therapist and psychiatrist both accept my need to control my medication and don’t view my treatment as a power play). I still cut my arm occasionally, but we discuss it and don’t treat it as some terrible backslide. I feel very lucky. I look at my chronic depression and realize that, given my life’s circumstances, much of it was a sane response to insane situations. I feel that I’ve been easy to treat, but had I had a series of “nightmare” therapists, I’d be so much worse off. I’m very grateful to susan for her support.
I think the thing that amazes me the most about some of the doctors I’ve seen for my episodic depression is that they’ve been so cruel. I wouldn’t say some of the things they’ve said to me to my dog. The first time I got depressed, I was terrified. Therapy was urgent, because of my strong anxiety and complete inability to cope. Naturally, I was referred (by my kind, gentle therapist) to a psychiatrist, which was scary. Was I really that sick? I was highly resistant to the idea of meds, but she didn’t try to allay my fears. “What makes you think you don’t need medication?” she barked, “I think you do.” She convinced me, and I’m glad she did although I’ll never forgive her for treating a suicidal but intelligent teenager like an imbecile. Other doctors I saw were nicer, but there was one last year who was pure evil. I’ll always remember the disgust in her eyes when, in response to the question, “Can you tell me something about this drug I’m taking?” she said, “Don’t you want to have children someday? You are going to harm your children, destroy their lives, if you don’t fix your problems.” Ugh. I think the reason antidepressants take so long to work is that it takes you a month to get over your appointments with your psychiatrist.
– Wendy from New Jersey
My first therapist was a social worker (MSW) whom my college roommate (also an MSW) recommended to me. I felt very comfortable with her, but after less than a year, I felt my therapy was at an impasse. (she had suggested meds, which petrified me) and I shut down after that.
I thought I could get along without a therapist but after a few months I realized it was not the case. The next therapist was a social worker too, with training in Freudian analysis, which I have since read is not very good for depression. She was not very empathetic. When I was worried about my parents’ finances because my mother has depression, she said don’t worry about it, they have health insurance and then tried to change the subject, despite the fact that I was worried because their insurance wasn’t paying for some very expensive x-rays. And she wanted to know why I was so upset to find out my mother has lung cancer. (Depressives tend to get overly upset at things, but really, she’s my MOTHER!)
After being with her for almost a year, I realized I needed to do something or I would end up dead. I went to my primary care physician for a referral to a psychiatrist. He asked me a few questions, and a few minutes later he wrote a prescription for Paxil and told me to come back in 6 months.
Well, after that, I called my health insurance, got names of some psychologists. Our first session was an interview, I followed some suggestions from one of my books and asked her a lot of questions — how often she treats depression, etc., etc. I began seeing her and saw a psychiatrist that she recommended. It’s been a hard time finding meds for me (PAXIL was a bad choice for me and it’s taking a while to wean me off.) But all in all I am comfortable with both my psychologist and psychiatrist.
– Susan from NYC
I recently had a panic attack. I went to the local clinic and was given Paxil. I found a shrink in the yellow pages, it’s a small town and there was only a choice of two. The one just worked on state cases. I choose shrink number two.
I just got his bill for three sessions. Are you ready for this…$890. My first session I asked his charges. He said $125 for a 50 minute hour, and the first session would go longer, getting background etc. My second session lasted over two hours until I finally said, hey doc, I gotta go. I’m thinking, hey it’s a small town, he’s not busy, maybe he’s interested in my case.
Session number three was going into two hours and I just excused myself, never thinking he has got the clock running.
To sum up, I’ve written the state board of medicine and spoken to their ombudsman, whose first comment was “Jesus”. I’ve flushed the dope down the toilet, and I feel much better thank you very much.
Please feel free to add your experiences with mental health professionals, both good and bad.
You might also be interested in Should You Find a New Therapist?