Psychiatrist, friend or foe?

A visit to a psychiatrist.  Ahhh, what a joy.  I get all warm and fuzzy just thinking about the comfort and peace I feel when I’m done in the doctor’s office.  NOT!

I had quite a shock after I had my first appointment with a psychiatrist.  It took a while before I was able to have a certain comfort level with these types of physicians.  I was expecting something different than what I received.

You see, I thought that the doctor would be friendly and comforting while extending a certain type of professional friendship.  Then after being fully engaged in my feelings, the psychiatrist would write me a prescription with the encouraging attitude that all would be better soon.  Needless to say I was sooooo off base.

Coming into her office I was full of hope and anticipation.  When I left, I felt alone and disliked.  But I would like to say that this is not the fault of the doctor.  It was my perception of what a psychiatrist does and how they interact with the patients.  I was totally unprepared for the experience that I got.  There was no one in my life who had ever visited this type of physician nor was there any literature from my family doctor that would prep me for my appointment.

Why the doctor felt so removed from me emotionally while I sat crying in her office for 45 minutes took me some time to figure out. When my depressive symptoms started to get better I was able to start thinking about the situation.

I came to the conclusion that two things were at play.  First, it was my expectation that there would be an emotional connection with my psychiatrist.  Although she was nice enough, her mannerisms were not all smiley-smiley and warm.  I had to realize that she’s a doctor.  She went to medical school to specialize in the treatment of my brain.  I concluded that she is interested mainly in the physical aspect of my condition. She spent a total of 10-13 years studying the science.  It’s all science, chemistry, biology, pharmacology, etc.  I think they also train in therapy, but the main emphasis is on the brain and medicine.

Second,  I think psychiatrists have to keep a professional and emotional distance from their patients.  There are some mental health issues that make people too dependent on their doctor, or abuse the after hours phone number, or try to manipulate the doctor.  Without some very strict boundaries a psychiatrist may get sucked too far into some of the patients problems.  If my physician is strictly treating my brain and not my “spiritual/personal” issues, then she must remove herself emotionally so that she can focus on her primary job; which is getting the chemicals in my brain balanced and working properly.

My conclusion is that most psychiatrists get into the field because they do indeed want to help people.  I believe that they try to stick to treating the actual brain of the patient and their symptoms, while leaving the coping and talk therapy to a psychologist.  This way they can practice their craft as a specialty without the lines between medicine and talk therapy crossing.  Also, in general, I think of most doctors in any field of medicine as scientists anyway.  It’s just a different type of personality than if you have a desire to help someone hash out personal problems, like a psychologist or family therapist.

I’ve had several psychiatrists over the past twenty years, and this emotional distance has been a common theme among all of them.  Once I got better and my mind cleared up, I could realize that the psychiatrist was not maintaining a separate boundary to hurt me or dismiss me.  It’s there to protect the psychiatrist as she helps many, many, people who have mental disorders.  I’m sure it can be tricky to navigate all the emotions that come into her office.  It would be very hard on even the strongest person.

In my previous blog I talked about some of the frustrating steps I had to take when I made my first psychiatrist appointment.  You can read about that experience by clicking here: Mission – Psychiatrist Appointment.

Until next time, take care of yourself.  I’ll be back soon.





4 thoughts on “Psychiatrist, friend or foe?

    1. I hope you find a psychiatrist that works for you eventually. I find that I’m so much better now that I’ve found one that connects with me. She’s still a bit stand-offish, but it’s workable for me.


  1. As one who has studied psychology at the undergraduate level, it is emphasized that exactly what you say is true. The psychiatrist is a brain doctor concerned with chemical imbalances, not your emotional problems–that’s for your therapist or psychologist. They could have a better “bedside” manner, but (as you point out) that would complicate their relationship with their patient. Good point made, though.


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