The Ponzi Scheme of Psychiatric Care

I’m not even sorry for the melodramatic title of this blog post.

I’ve had a bit of depression and minor anxiety for as long as I can remember. My young life is marked by times when I have neglected taking good care of myself, wasn’t aware of my depressive symptoms, or didn’t realize the panicky feeling in my chest was even anxiety in the first place. Now that I’m a little older, I’m not ashamed of experiencing a loss of interest in butterflies (cheap joke for those of you that have seen the Zoloft bubble commercials).

Things are good now. I am good, sincerely. I am balanced and happy in my life. In order to stay on this track, I do take a small dose of anti-anxiety medicine every night and have been for the past year or so. I was seeing a therapist for a few months prior to getting the prescription and I think she was tired of watching me cry on her couch and use all the Kleenex so she eventually referred me to a psychiatrist.

My issue with the psychiatrist… Where to start? My first appointment with her, she strolled in forty minutes late carrying a take-out lunch and ate in front of me. I had been telling her assistant practitioner about my issues for the first half hour but got billed at the psychiatrist’s rate for the full hour, nearly $200.00 even with insurance. She only wrote my prescription in three month chunks, forcing me to return to see her regularly for updates which would not be a big deal if she ever remembered who I was which brings me to– she didn’t. Remember who I was. During my second appointment I had to walk her through her own notes about me and she put her hand on her desk, gently leaned in, and asked me if I ever thought the radio was talking to me or sending me secret messages.

Hi. I’m B. I’m your patient with mild anxiety, NOT A SCHIZOPHRENIC. Read your damn folder before I sit here and pay you $200.00 to tell you the dosage is still working great for me.

It was so infuriating that I ended up changing doctors. I still have a bill coming in the mail for probably a little over $500.00, the remainder of what I owe her for her half-assed advice. I really like the woman I see now and am happy to pay her rate for her excellent care and attention. She talks to me like an adult that’s just doing the right thing and taking care of herself, which — SPOILER ALERT — I AM. The lesson here for me is: if you’re going to pay a lot, you’d best be liking or at least able to respect what you’re buying.

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16 thoughts on “The Ponzi Scheme of Psychiatric Care

  1. I’d like to say that I’m horrified by the experience with your psychiatrist, but sadly, many private practitioners aren’t at all connected to, or invested in, their patients’ treatment. I’m a LMSW at a mental health shelter for women with Severe and Persistent Mental Illnesses. Our psychiatrists are absolutely wonderful with our clients. I know I’m biased, but the people who got into the field to help people usually end up working in clinics and non-profits. The ones who ask people with anxiety disorders if the voices are telling them to jump off a bridge, usually end up in over priced private practices;-) That being said, there are so wonderful psychiatrists who do work for themselves, I hope that you find/found one :-)

    • Thank you for replying, Kari. Your insight is spot-on, the psychiatrist I didn’t like was private practice. It’s good to know there are people like you in the system that care about the quality of care and I’m happy to report I do like my new doctor. :)

  2. I’ve seen a therapist on and off since 2001. The “off” times were either when I felt like they were being useless (kind of like your situation) and that I didn’t want to have to pay to re-tell my story. That’s definitely the one thing I hate about meeting a new counselor; I feel like I waste my first meeting (and co-pay) on dredging up my whole depression story.

    Anyway, glad to hear you’re doing better. I think I am too! Recently changed meds, and I think they’re already helping (or maybe it’s all in my head…but I’m okay with the placebo effect!). Going to keep going to someone for awhile, but will probably go less often as I regain the proper perspective on things.

  3. I hate it when doctors do that! You’d think that for the amount of money people are paying them they’d take the time to take people’s problems seriously. Especially mental health! I want to throttle your former psychiatrist; I’m so glad you found someone else who takes you seriously.

  4. My family physician has mixed me up a few times with my sister. I wouldn’t even notice until she’d ask me how my brain surgery scar has been feeling… I feel like saying
    “I’m the one with the broken wrist and PTSD, not the cracked open skull.” But I refrain.

    I’m glad you found someone you are connecting with and who is really helping you. One good thing about having to pay is that you have the right to shop around for someone who works for you, instead of being assigned to a someone who doesn’t care about you.

  5. Pingback: Let Me Break That Down For You, Doctor « Below Her Means

  6. This post brings me back to when I was being treated for severe post partum depression after the birth of my first daughter. The therapist was a bubble head that couldn’t seem to focus half the time and seemed to want to make light of my suicidal thoughts. The nail in the coffin for our relationship came when she interrupted our session (I was in the middle of sharing) and answered the door to her office where a coworker wanted to know if she wanted to pay for the wicker wreaths that they were selling in the office. She LEFT THE ROOM to purchase her g-damn wreath then came back in and expected us to pick up where we had left off. I never went back.

  7. Pingback: Catching up and Cookery Sunday: Crusty Bread | A Gai Shan Life

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