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TRAINING YOUR NEW PSYCHIATRIST

So you just got a new shrink! Now, just as puppies without training can become dangerous, as time goes on so can your 'trick cyclist'. A little hard work now can pay off big time in the end and hopefully avoid them coming back to bite you.

Here are some ideas that may help break him or her in:


1. You are their employer.

On first meeting, remember that you are interviewing them for suitability. They need to decide if they want the job but you are the one with the most to lose if it is a bad fit. Plus, you're paying the bill. They may not be perfect to start with, but do they say things that give you hope or despair? Do you feel like a person or a diagnosis? Only give them as much information as you are comfortable in giving them at first. If they are not a good fit, go back to your GP or clinic and ask them to help find you someone else.


2. This is temporary.

Should you both decide to go ahead, remember that you are not bound together for life, you are still finding out about one another; either of you can decide to pull out at any time. It's a bit like dating, just hopefully without the awkward stuff about how to end the time together. And at least everyone knows who pays!


3. Check for trust.

If, after a period of time you still do not trust them with information you know could be helpful, try to work out why not. If this issue is at your end, perhaps ask them for help in sorting it out. If it's at their end, they may not be a good fit for you.


4. They don't know everything.

Remember that while they may know a lot more about some stuff than you do, there is lots of stuff that you know better than them - including, of course, you! For them to help you they need to know you and what you want and need from them. If you know that you are allergic to some drugs or can identify some of your early warning signs or have tales of other shrink relationships gone wrong, tell them - you don't want to have to go through it all again.


5. Be honest.

If stuff doesn't feel right, tell them. They are psychiatrists, not psychics! They are not infallible. It is always worth asking if they will change something you don't like rather than just putting up with it, or quitting. There may well be good reasons for what they are doing but you have every right to explanations that make sense to you and the right to state your objections.


6. Assert your knowledge and preferences.

Let them know, perhaps by Advance Directive, what you want them to do in some common situations. If they need to contact you to perhaps change an appointment, can they leave a full explanation on your answering machine or just a "please call back" message? Can they call themselves "Dr So-and-So" if leaving a message with work or your housemates, or would you prefer they drop the title? Can you discuss what will be written on medical certificates if they are ever needed? Is there someone they can call for you if they are worried about you; if so, what should they say? Under what circumstances do they have your permission to call?


7. Get to know their preferences.

Find out what services they are willing to offer. Will they read a letter or email in between sessions? How often do they check their phone messages? Will they call you back or wait until your next session? Will they post a prescription if you can't get to an appointment? Do they charge a fee for cancellations? What will they do if they suspect a crisis is happening? If you have trouble talking face to face can you bring a letter with you for them to read and discuss with you in appointment time? Knowing all of this in advance can reduce a lot of stress for you later.

8. It is your time.

Use this time the way you want it used. You can set the priorities - work out what you hope to achieve and ask them to help you get there. Be wary of them setting goals that don't feel right for you; they know books and what helps other people, but that may not work for you. That said, if we had all the answers we wouldn't be seeing a shrink so do give them the respect that you ask for, and offer them an explanation they can understand for anything you disagree with.


9. When they get stuff right, tell them.

Just like a puppy, psychiatrists tend to respond better to praise than punishment. In our experience, most are not fond of dog biscuits but who doesn't like a Tim Tam?


10. It is your decision.

If you decide to end your relationship with your psychiatrist for any reason, let them know why. It may help the next person seeing them but they may also have ideas of who may suit you better. If you are getting drugs from them, remember that going cold turkey is rarely a good idea. Sudden withdrawal from many psychiatric drugs can cause more problems than you had to begin with.