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Understanding The Subtext Of The Therapeutic Relationship

When we talk about psychotherapy, one aspect of what we look at is the process of what occurs in the therapeutic relationship.  This is an important part of psychodynamic-based psychotherapy, meaning psychotherapy that is derived from the theories put forth by Freud.  Psychoanalysis (the purest form of psychodynamic psychotherapy) includes an emphasis on events that occurred during childhood, and a focus on understanding what goes on in the relationship between the therapist and the patient, including the transference and counter-transference.

In some of our posts, our friend Jesse has commented about how it’s important to understand what transpires in the mind of the patient when certain things are said and done.  Let me tell you that Jesse is a wonderful psychiatrist, he is warm and caring and attentive and gentle, and he’s had extensive training in the analytic method, he’s on my list of who I go to when I need help, so while I want to discuss this concept, I don’t want anyone, especially Jesse, to think I don’t respect him.  With that disclaimer…..

On my tongue-in-cheek post on What to Get Your Psychiatrist for the Holidays, Jesse wrote: Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Shrink Rap*

Does Your Therapist Think You’re A Narcissist?

Psychotherapy is, by it’s nature, a narcissistic endeavor.  That’s not to say that the patient is a narcissist, but the journey itself is meant to focus on patient’s interior life, and it’s not always about the greater good.  In my last post, several commenters said they feel uncomfortable talking about themselves or worry that their therapist will mistakenly think they are narcissistic because they talk about themselves in therapy.

It’s not at all unusual for people to express some discomfort about talking about themselves in therapy, or to comment, “all I do in here is complain,”  or “You must get tired of hearing people complain/talk about their problems, etc….”

I won’t talk for other psychotherapists because I only know how I feel.  It seems to me that the mandate of therapy is for the patient to talk about the things they have been thinking about.  The truth is that most people think about themselves, and issues of the world are interpreted by individuals as they impact them.  Some people Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Shrink Rap*

Psychiatrist Reviews “Crazy” Book: Finds Some Genuineness Behind Author’s Bravado

Rob Dobrenski, PhD. is a psychologist who blogs over on  He’s written a book about what it’s like to be a psychology graduate student, a psychotherapy patient, and a psychologist.  Oh, we like the folks who go from Shrink blog to Shrink book — it somehow feels familiar — and so I agreed to read his book: Crazy: Tales on and Off the Couch.

So bear with me while I tell you that the book rubbed me wrong at the outset.  Dr. Dobrenski begins by saying something to the effect that he describes things that all shrinks feel, and if they say they don’t, they aren’t being honest.  I really hate it when people tell me what I feel.  It’s like saying that Prozac made your depression better and if it didn’t, then you just didn’t recognize it.  And then the book gets off on a provocative start — Rob discovers that many people in his life, from a patient, to a colleague, to himself — are “f***ing crazy.” The asterisks are mine. Dr. Dobrenski had no trouble using the word — I counted 19 times in the 39 pages, including in direct quotes of discussions he has with both a patient and one of his supervisors.  Not in a million years.  I wasn’t sure what the point was.  To let people know he knows obscene words?  To be Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Shrink Rap*

Medical Students: Why Choose Psychiatry?

Here at Shrink Rap, we often talk about the stigma of having a psychiatric disorder. It’s funny, but society has it almost ranked, so that certain illnesses are very stigmatized–schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder, and borderline personality disorder, to name a few, and others are pretty much socially acceptable: Attention Deficit Disorder, for example, especially among the high school/college crowd where the patient often gets identified (or self-identifies) as the source for those late-night stimulants that so many kids cop.

It’s not just the patients. Psychiatrists are also stigmatized, and that doesn’t help much when our society talks about the shrink shortage.

Exalya writes:

I’m a first (almost second) year medical student with a strong passion for psychiatry. I love listening to your podcasts; you give me hope for my future when the drudgery of first year classes is getting me down, and I feel like I always learn something useful.

That aside, I am writing to you seeking some advice. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Shrink Rap*

Talk Is Cheap, Unless It’s Talk Therapy

Gardiner Harris had a [recent] article in the New York Times called “Talk Doesn’t Pay So Psychiatrists Turn to Drug Therapy.” The article is a twist on an old Shrink Rap topic, “Why your Shrink Doesn’t Take Your Insurance.” Only in this article the shrink does take your insurance, he just doesn’t talk to you.

With his life and second marriage falling apart, a man said he needed help. But the psychiatrist, Dr. Donald Levin, stopped him and said: “Hold it. I’m not your therapist. I could adjust your medications, but I don’t think that’s appropriate.”

Dr. Levin sees 40 patients a day. And he’ss 68 years old. This guy is amazing. There’s no way I could see 40 patients a day for even one day. He’s worried about his retirement, but I wouldn’t make it to retirement at that pace. (Should we make a bet on whether Dr. Levin has a blog?)

The article has a whimsical, oh-but-for-the-good-old-days tone. In-and-out psychiatry based on prescribing medications for psychiatric disorders is bad, but the article doesn’t say why. In the vignettes, the patients get better and they like the psychiatrist. Maybe medications work and psychotherapy was overemphasized in the days of old? The patients don’t complain of being short-changed, and if Dr. Levin can get 40 patients a day better for — your guess is as good as mine, but let’s say — $60 a pop, and they only have to come every one to three months, and there’s a shortage of psychiatrists, then what’s the problem? Why in the world would anyone pay to have regular psychotherapy sessions? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Shrink Rap*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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