Today I decided to write doctors 101, which I should probably apologize ahead of time to all my friends who are doctor for having the audacity to write this.
This is going to seem fairly simple to some of you, but for others it will help. I have found a lot of confusion out there regarding the terms we are going to discuss.
First the MD. MD stands for medical doctor. A medical doctor is the one who takes care of you when you’re sick. At this point in time I have 4 medical doctors. The first one is my Primary Care Physician, otherwise known as a PCP. In the past we would use the term family doctor, I have no idea why that changed. Your PCP takes care of your general health. A cold, the flu, and your regular aches and pains, blessed is the person who only ever sees a PCP.
We need to take a break hear now and add the PA or The Physician’s Assistant. A PA can do the things a doctor can do only he does them under the immediate supervision of an MD. In reality I am not sure how this works in the office. I, however, see a PA and I have a high respect for him. He treats me well and thinks of alternatives to regular meds which sometimes really help.
Next you have the specialists. We are no longer in the days of the Wild West. Where your town had one doctor and he helped you with your cold and set your broken leg. After a certain level of treatment your PCP may advise you to see a specialist. I have three, 1, a podiatrist for my feet, 2 a neurologist for my brain and 3 a psychiatrist for mental health issues.
Now let’s take a look at the PHD. The PHD is a doctor of philosophy and as many as there are subjects under the sun you can have a PHD. You can have a PHD in English, Math, Botany, Theology, Religion; Music the list is really endless. I see one PHD and that is my Psychologist.
As mentioned above a Psychiatrist is an MD and he is. A psychiatrist takes care of the medical side of emotional and mental illness. He supplies the medications you may need such as anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds. I have found that there are two types of Physiatrists. The first you see for a very brief time, they quickly checks your meds against how you are feeling and alter them accordingly. These psychiatrists are usually the ones you will find that are covered under your insurance. The second talks to you for a longer period of time and then alters the meds. These you will rarely find covered by insurance.
A psychologist is different as he does not provide you with medication but instead helps you with what is now popularly come to be known as Talk Therapy. Talk Therapy is the type that you see depicted in cartoons where the patient is laying on a couch and the doctor is sitting there taking notes. This differs from Peanuts where Lucy has a psychiatric both and she sits on one side and Charlie Brown sits on the other. As Lucy only charges five cents I doubt this is much of an issue.
Talk Therapy, in reality. takes place in a pretty relaxing atmosphere. There can be a couch present but mostly people sit up and talk. Comfortable chairs are usually available though I can think of one instance where the office was pretty Zen oriented and had two chairs and wall hangings.
The PHD is going to set up his or her office according to their personal choices as well as the type of therapy that they do. There are many types of talk therapy. One where you do just talk and the PHD takes notes and listens rarely giving advice, but giving you the opportunity to figure stuff out on your own.
The other will be more active in the conversation and will challenge you while you are speaking as well as help you set goals. This is the type of psychologist I see. He was the doctor that had me come off sugar identifying it as an addiction.
Here is the key with all doctors, both MDs and PHDs. YOU ARE THE BOSS. If one of your docs isn’t treating you well, go to another. This is especially true with the psychologist and psychiatrist. The guy that fixes your leg can be an ass personality wise, but if he is an amazing surgeon, keep him. You only deal with him for a short time.
With a psychologist or psychiatrist it is very different. This becomes a real relationship in your life. You have to like someone that you have to trust with all your deepest feelings and secrets. Some will even allow a phone interview before you come in for an appointment just to see if the two of you are a good match. This relationship may be very short term or long term, but you gotta like and trust the guy, if you don’t, or the relationship goes south, fire him or her. It is your right to do so.
With talk therapy there are also therapists. These mostly have master’s degrees. My first experience was with a therapist and he was brilliant. He gave me two pieces of advice that I now pass on to you. The first, is a therapist is not a paid for friend. You are there to accomplish something together then part company, this is not a person who you hang out with. The second is, if your therapist and you decide that you are to do something, do it. If you don’t or you don’t have a very good reason for not doing the work, you are wasting the therapist’s time and your time as well as your money.
One final thought. Medical Doctors and Doctors of Philosophy work equally hard at earning their degrees. They, as I understand, get there through different processes, but the time and energy spent are probably about equal. I want to take a second to pause and salute those who have made this achievement in their lives. Many of them gave as the benefits that we have today in the 21st century, and those that follow will play a key roll in building a better tomorrow.