“Brain disease”: the anti-psychiatrists respond

I don’t avoid reading opinions strongly critical of psychiatry. They help sharpen my reasoning skills. It’s always possible they might alter my views in some way. And like most everyone, I consider myself openminded and receptive to criticism. However, after years of reading Thomas Szasz, Robert Whitaker, and the screeds of the less articulate, after […]

Are psychiatric disorders brain diseases?

Some maladies that attract psychiatric attention are unequivocally brain diseases. Huntington’s disease. Brain tumors. Lead poisoning. However, these are not psychiatric diseases. Huntington’s is a genetic abnormality diagnosed and treated by neurologists. Brain tumors are managed by neurosurgeons and oncologists. Lead toxicity is treated by internal medicine. Indeed, a long list of medical and surgical […]

Parenting medical disruptors

Popularized telemedicine — that is, teleconferencing with a physician over one’s smartphone — worries many critics because it assumes patients can be evaluated without a physical exam. The critics are right that those with a financial interest in “disrupting” health care typically minimize the trade-offs. Convenience and lower cost are trumpeted, while risks of misdiagnosis […]

Enjoying clinical uncertainty

Lucia Sommers of the Department of Family and Community Medicine at UC San Francisco commented on my last post, noting that clinical uncertainty among primary care physicians (PCPs) is usually regarded as tolerable at best. She was delighted that I called such uncertainty intellectually attractive, and something to embrace in psychiatry. Sommers and her coauthor […]

Undermedicated

A patient I see for psychotherapy, without medications except for an occasional lorazepam (tranquilizer of the benzodiazepine class), told me his prior psychiatrist declared him grossly undermedicated in one of their early sessions, and had quickly prescribed two or three daily drugs for depression and anxiety. He shared this story with a smile, as we’ve […]

Who is mentally ill?

My fellow psychiatrist and blogger Dinah Miller raised this simple yet profound question on Shrink Rap the other day. Who is rightfully labeled mentally ill? Is it anyone with a psychiatric diagnosis, past or present? Anyone with currently active psychiatric symptoms? Anyone receiving psychiatric treatment? Dr. Miller observes that “the mentally ill” is an oft-cited […]

Third-party payment for psychotherapy: (1) "Do you take Medicare?"

From late 1996 to early 2007 I was medical director of a low-fee mental health clinic where psychiatry residents and psychology interns receive training. Since the clinic accepted Medicare for payment, I did as well. I signed on as a Medicare “preferred provider” and have remained on the panel ever since, even though I left […]