Online forums

Before you can post or reply in these forums, please complete your profile

Complete your profile

Before you can post or reply in these forums, please join our online community.

Forum membership is open to anyone residing in Australia.

Join the online community Community rules Coping during the Coronavirus outbreak

Forums / Treatments, health professionals and therapies / A Discussion on How Mental Health Professionals Could be More Empathetic

Topic: A Discussion on How Mental Health Professionals Could be More Empathetic

14 posts, 0 answered
  1. Brant
    Brant avatar
    3 posts
    20 November 2019

    Hey Everyone

    Before I start, I would like to address I am not name and shame. By sharing my story, I wish to start a conversation on how mental health professionals could be more empathetic. Everyone is welcome to share their similar experiences. PLEASE still be respectful and DO NOT mention any information that could lead someone to be identified here.

    It starts with my relapse into depression in September. As a result, I missed some university work, so I was advised by my course coordinator to apply for special consideration. I have my psychologist, who was an excellent counselor at the clinic of my university and has been nothing but empathetic towards my situation. However, she was fully booked until mid-December. So, I decided to book for a quick triage session at the same clinic, to seek some general advice and counseling instead of sitting idly home. It has never been my intention to have to obtain a support letter through a new psychologist who only happens to work for triage that day. However, once I finished telling him what happened to me, it seemed that he immediately assumed that I was only there to 'force' him to give me a medical certificate. Under that assumption, he just behaved in such a way as if every question from me was an argument directed against him for not giving me the document. In the end, he only said something along the line of "I am sorry, but I have to be that guy. " Although I looked calm, my anxieties have been through the roof for a while now, and I have no one but mental health professionals to share my feeling with cause I live alone in a city far from my hometown. Throughout the session, he never even asked once, "how are you feeling now?". In the end, I wasn't even assisted by him to be booked in with my psychologist, which is precisely the purpose of the triage service.

    I understand time could be tight in a short session. Still, I would feel much better if he had taken 2 seconds to ask me about my feeling instead of giving me an apology that I never asked for. I wish more mental health professionals to be more aware that your assumptions on clients significantly impact how you interact with them. Your personal frustration would easily drive your clients away. In my case, I would definitely avoid this particular psychologist in the future.

    1 person found this helpful
  2. smallwolf
    Community Champion
    • Outstanding members who have volunteered their time to support others here on the forums
    • A member of beyondblue's blueVoices community
    smallwolf avatar
    3668 posts
    20 November 2019 in reply to Brant

    Hi Brant,

    welcome to beyond blue.

    Frustrating to read about your recent experience. I don't know much about the service you went to, and agree that it would have been nice if you were asked 'how are you?'.Whether I get a haircut or giving blood you are asked "how are you?"

    And if I were felt I was given the short straw and and not given proper service I would be angry also. On the other hand, if it is a very short session, it has the potential of opening a can of worms.

    You also are correct that there no rapport between the client and therapist the client won't go back. One thing that needs be considered was/is the experience of the professional and related communications skills. This is aside from you having to reframe your thoughts about the experience.

    I guess the question for you is... what do you want out of this experience? Would you feel better if you wrote an email to the people telling them about what happened (an opportunity for improvement)?

    Lastly, you said that you have no one to share your feelings with.... Can I ask about family? Friends? Or would you not feel comfortable in talking about it?

    I hope you come back and chat some more.

    Tim

    2 people found this helpful
  3. blondguy
    Life Member
    • Life membership is awarded by beyondblue for providing outstanding peer support to the online community over a period of 3+ years.
    • A member of beyondblue's blueVoices community
    blondguy avatar
    10196 posts
    20 November 2019 in reply to Brant

    Hi Brant

    just a friendly note....Your privacy and well being are paramount and respected on the forums

    Smallwolf (Tim) above has provided excellent support

    I think sending an email expressing your thoughts (or even take a screengrab of this thread) would be a good idea.....You have been misunderstood as per what you have posted. You everything to gain and nothing to lose

    You are also doing your best at UNI and doing your best to cope with feelings of anxiety. You are proactive by engaging assistance from counselors in the first place Brant

    There are many gentle people on the forums that can be here for you too during this frustrating period

    I hope you can stick around Brant

    my kind thoughts

    Paul

    3 people found this helpful
  4. Brant
    Brant avatar
    3 posts
    20 November 2019 in reply to smallwolf

    Hey Tim,

    Thanks for replying. After today's experience, I just went back to my GP for emergency care. Now, I am back on my medication. The truth is that today's experience on top of my difficulties in the past few months triggered me to have an emotional breakdown. Luckily, my original psychologist replied to me through email that she would be able to see me next Tuesday. The triage session at the health service of my university is basically for someone who does not have a recent appointment but has urgent yet not life-threatening needs. So, it's mostly psychologists who work in this service, taking turns every day to perform this duty. It intends to increase efficiency by deciding the order of urgency. I fail to understand how he seemed to have this assumption that I was there to demand documents? Maybe, I was suppressing my anxieties so hard that he was unable to sense it? Perhaps, my ADHD prevented me from effectively communicating with him, but he knows that I've got ADHD by my records, though. The funny thing is that I had been feeling relatively ok today. After having met him, I had to see my GP because I wasn't feeling safe.

    I guess I am just too exhausted to write him an email or anything. At this moment, I felt that I have too many other battles to fight. And, there is a potential conflict of interest since he worked at the same clinic with both my GP and original psychologist. He also mentioned that he is on an academic appealing board. So, I would like to stay as far away from him as possible. I don't feel like being scrutinized by him again when I am not even at the stage of having to face the appealing board. Since I am doing a course for a field that's part of allied health professions, this experience made me truly realize how important empathy is for providing counseling. Journals and books are not kidding.

    I had to move from Melbourne to Perth this year. My family is oversea, and I am not close to them. My friends are all in Melbourne. It has been difficult to adjust to this new environment when I have to rebuild my support network from scratch. My GP just told me that I could go see her any day if I am not feeling ok.

    Have you had similar experiences while accessing a service? Would love to chat with you.

    Brant

    1 person found this helpful
  5. Brant
    Brant avatar
    3 posts
    20 November 2019 in reply to blondguy

    Hey Paul

    I am happy that I found this supportive community. I wasn't worried about my privacy. Being unfamiliar with the culture of this forum, I was worried that I would unintentionally start a thread where people would name and shame the professionals as that has never been my intention. You know how toxic an internet forum could usually get, and I did not wish to contribute to that culture. Now, I guess I was overly cautious. Everyone here seems to be gentle and supportive

    I typed a long reply to Tim to explain the situation with this particular psychologist I saw today. I guess I would stay away from him like avoiding a plague. I wish I could contribute to bringing attention to the issues of lack of empathy by some professionals in services out there.

    Have you had a similar experience while trying access services?

    I will stick around. Warm regard to all the fellow members in this community

    Brant

    1 person found this helpful
  6. blondguy
    Life Member
    • Life membership is awarded by beyondblue for providing outstanding peer support to the online community over a period of 3+ years.
    • A member of beyondblue's blueVoices community
    blondguy avatar
    10196 posts
    20 November 2019 in reply to Brant

    Hey Brant

    You are spot on about how toxic some internet forums are! I didnt have the guts to post my first thread here for weeks after I joined....seriously.

    My anxiety attacks (bad ones) started when I was 23 and they were awful....and yes I did find it difficult finding a good counselor (GP...psych..etc) for about a year or so....and this was frustrating....I do feel for you on this Brant as it can be a pain for sure. Just as per my own anxiety issues I have had success with persevering with a GP who has a strong focus where anxiety issues are concerned.

    Ended up finding a super caring GP that had an excellent understand about all levels of anxiety.....It took a while but it was worth all the effort.....I tripped and fumbled at the start as anyone would do with anxiety feelings

    The good news :-)....our anxiety levels can be reduced with frequent ongoing visits to our doc/counselor and you have made a excellent point that it can sometimes be pain and yes many of us have gone through a similar time

    Just a compliment if I may....After all you have gone through with being proactive with your health you have taken the time to send your warm regards to all your fellow members on this national forum...Nice1

    • you wont be judged on the forums... ever
    • sorry that I misunderstood your opening paragraph....my bad
    • your posts are just as important/valued as mine or anyone else's on the forums

    You are welcome to offer support to other members if you see anyone struggling Brant!

    Great to have you as part of the forum family

    Paul

    2 people found this helpful
  7. romantic_thi3f
    Community Champion
    • Outstanding members who have volunteered their time to support others here on the forums
    • Life membership is awarded by beyondblue for providing outstanding peer support to the online community over a period of 3+ years.
    • A member of beyondblue's blueVoices community
    romantic_thi3f avatar
    2547 posts
    21 November 2019 in reply to Brant

    Hello Brant,

    Thank you for being here and starting this conversation - you are right, it is so important. Both Paul and Tim have given you some great insight and support so I hope you don't mind me jumping in too.

    I'm sorry to hear about your experiences with the psychologist. Honestly it doesn't even seem like empathy so much as common decency and respect. Asking 'how are you?' or 'how can I help?' is basic common sense, regardless of what your profile says or why you've come in.

    I feel consistently frustrated with the health professionals that I see. The last GP told me that "I should be over this by now" and the one before that suggested a diagnosis without even asking how things were going.

    I hope you don't mind but I thought I'd just plug http://ourturntospeak.com.au/ - It's a big online survey about stigma and discrimination with mental health. I just did it yesterday and was so grateful for the opportunity to speak up - unfortunately when people have negative experiences with any sort of health professional, it's much easier to withdraw or shut down.

    Hopefully this stuff is helpful to you! It's been nice to join in the conversation.

    RT

    1 person found this helpful
  8. smallwolf
    Community Champion
    • Outstanding members who have volunteered their time to support others here on the forums
    • A member of beyondblue's blueVoices community
    smallwolf avatar
    3668 posts
    23 November 2019 in reply to Brant

    Hello again.

    Noticed that you mentioned you felt relatively OK in your reply to me - was that because you were able to write it down in the forum here and able to the let out the frustrations you were feeling? I am nearly 50 and for much of my life I would hold my feelings inside or not expressing an opinion - part of that was getting teased for showing feelings, wanting people to like me and if I had a different opinion thought they wouldn't like me. Ultimately I thought my feelings was something everyone went through. Yet there was a point where it got too much. So talking becomes helpful, and in this day and age if you have a device you can easily chat with your family and friends in Melbourne?

    To answer your question though... I can remember two instances. The first was when I had a short appointment with a GP, and it went slightly over the allocated time and the person at the front counter had a go at me. The second occasion was with a spiritual director who seemed not to be listening to anything I was saying. Someone had suggested I try it out - not again.

    You are right that empathy is very important between a therapist and client. Developing a good rapport is equally important. Whenever I see my psych (ologist/iatrist) they always ask me how I am feeling, even when I don't want them to.

    Hope you are having an OK weekend.

    Tim

  9. Jules292
    Jules292 avatar
    31 posts
    31 January 2020

    I am not sure if this is where I should post &/or reply with my concerns, so I apologise in advance.

    I too have had a concerning consultation with my psychiatrist which has left me feeling sad and disappointed.
    She showed no care or concern for how I was feeling at the time, she berated me and said that I was wasting my time, her time and other therapists time if I was not going to do and follow the skills provided. At first I thought she was right and deserved it, and, still agree to a point but it’s left me feeling totally invalidated.

    I experienced extreme distress on Wednesday evening and was left with feelings of sadness, shame and hopelessness. I have no one to talk to until next week so I saw her for some guidance and care.

    DBT skills are a great way to help with strong emotions but it doesn’t mean that experiences of distress aren’t going to happen. I am human and I know I have to change my response to issues that arise. It’s just that at times it’s hard, and that’s all she had to say!

    So now I’m left with feelings of hate and negativity towards myself and don’t know what to do?

    So if anyone is interested in replying to my issue, I’d be very grateful.

    Kind regards

    Jules292

  10. smallwolf
    Community Champion
    • Outstanding members who have volunteered their time to support others here on the forums
    • A member of beyondblue's blueVoices community
    smallwolf avatar
    3668 posts
    1 February 2020 in reply to Jules292

    Hi Jules292,

    Your post was OK for posting here - it talks about a real life experience you had. It must have been awful to feel that way at the end of the session. I don't know what your relationship with her is normally like... You might have an opportunity to talk about it next time you see them?

    You did mention another week before talking to someone - I know it is not the same thing, and not but you can post here (in the forums) whenever you like and other users here will respond.

    On bad days... The way my psychologist (and I have a psychiatrist) described it to me is like walking up a mountain and that to get to the top there will be times when you have to go through a valley before you are able to climb higher. So if I have a bad day afterwards I will have to remind myself that I was going through a valley. Previously I would have felt as though I had gone back to the starting point. And it has taken me 2 years to get to this point with my psychologist. My psychiatrist is there for the medication stuff and leaves the head stuff to my psychologist, though does believe "we" (read me) need both - that is medication and talk therapy.

    I have go out for a bit, and when I get back will jump onto your other thread. Hope you are having an OK day.

    Tim

  11. blondguy
    Life Member
    • Life membership is awarded by beyondblue for providing outstanding peer support to the online community over a period of 3+ years.
    • A member of beyondblue's blueVoices community
    blondguy avatar
    10196 posts
    1 February 2020 in reply to Jules292

    Hello Jules292 and thankyou Brandt...the OP!

    I understand what you have gone through with your therapist. Tim has provided noteworthy support in his post above on this. Even my psychiatrist can be a bit 'cold' sometimes as they usually deal with the medication side not our thoughts as psychologist does

    Can I ask how many sessions you have had with her?

    Thankyou for being a part of the Beyond Blue family!

    my kind thoughts

    Paul

  12. Jules292
    Jules292 avatar
    31 posts
    1 February 2020 in reply to blondguy

    Hi Paul

    I have been seeing her for about 2 years maybe 3? I know that they normally cover medications but she has always provided more than that with me. It may have been a tactic to treat me with some ‘tough love’?

    My super sensitivity has probably been wounded and I think maybe I should just suck it up!!

    Or maybe she is getting sick of me? I hope not because up till now we’ve had a good relationship.

    I know these are all hypotheticals but it’s hard to sit with all these questions I have. I do see my psychologist on Tuesday, thank goodness, because I can run through it with her as well!!

    thanks again for taking time to answer my queries

    jules292

    1 person found this helpful
  13. blondguy
    Life Member
    • Life membership is awarded by beyondblue for providing outstanding peer support to the online community over a period of 3+ years.
    • A member of beyondblue's blueVoices community
    blondguy avatar
    10196 posts
    1 February 2020 in reply to Jules292

    Hi Jules292

    I have always been over sensitive myself and as a result the awful anxiety occured when I was 23 in 1983...

    You mentioned 'tough love' or maybe it was 'tough therapy'...even though they are the same. After having awful anxiety attacks for 13 years...my anxiety only increased until my female psychiatrist really told me off and said..

    * "If I dont start regular appointments with a psychologist or a GP immediately I will...

    * "lose my house....my career....my sleep will become worse....and my personal relationships will falter"

    I cried so much afterwards as I felt offended by their attitude....until I realised that they were only trying to help me help myself. Thus my over sensitised thinking was at fault....not my psychiatrist.....oops

    I wasted 13 years of my life by not committing to ongoing frequent therapy and refusing low level AD's

    Just a friendly note Jules....this only relates to my own symptoms as everyone represents differently :-)

    I really do hope some of this is somewhat helpful as its why I am a volunteer on Beyond Blue

    Your therapist is not sick of you in any shape or form Jules...You are doing well not to mention being so proactive with your health

    any questions are always welcome....the forums are a safe and non judgemental place for you to post

    my kindest

    Paul

    1 person found this helpful
  14. Jules292
    Jules292 avatar
    31 posts
    2 February 2020 in reply to blondguy

    Thanks for that, and yes that’s what I meant ‘tough therapy’! this has been very helpful, I’m not totally sure how to move forward yet but I’m feeling better.

    I just have this urge to try and fix things with her, but I know I need to keep some distance and hopefully I can improve my mood and keep on track, because yes same, I think if I don’t that the important structures I have worked so hard for will all crumble ie: family, work (career), friends etc.

    thanks again

    jules

Stay in touch with us

Sign up below for regular emails filled with information, advice and support for you or your loved ones.


Sign me up