Tag: psychiatry

SHRINKTALK- New Book by Michael Blumenfield, M.D.

September 11th, 2021 — 5:13pm

I am very pleased to tell you about the publication of a new book that I have written titled SHRINKTALK. It is based on my experience over many years in the field of psychiatry. It covers a wide variety of subjects such as ethical dilemmas that psychiatrists can face, dealing with anxiety, panic, depression, suicidal thoughts, sexuality, autism, post traumatic stress, psychological issues in regard to the Cornavirus epidemic as well as various medical conditions, my interactions with two U.S. Presidents and many other subjects. Also included in the book are answers to questions that I have provided for a popular website.

You can order the book in printed or Kindle version on Amazon. ( Click here )

I hope you will consider getting the book and if you like it, help me spread the word to your friends and colleagues and also consider writing a positive review on Amazon and elsewhere


Michael Blumenfield, M.D.

Comment » | AM - Autobiography or Memoir, MHP - Mental Health/Psychiatry

What She Left Behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman

January 13th, 2016 — 11:06pm

Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 10.53.06 PMWhat She Left Behind

By Ellen Marie Wiseman

This book is composed of two interweaving stories. Clara, a woman who lived in the 1930s was committed to a mental institution against her will based on her wealthy father’s unhappiness about her Italian immigrant boyfriend and her refusal to marry the rich guy that her father picked out for her. The other story is about a current day teenager named Izzy who is a foster child of Peg and Harry after having lived with several previous foster parents since her mother unexplainably murdered her father. Peg is working on a museum project examining newly discovered suitcases of belongings of former patients (including those of Clara) of a now closed psychiatric facility, in order to gain some understanding of their lives. Izzy helps out with this project and finds the diary of Clara and becomes interested in her life.

Being a psychiatrist, I was initially drawn to this book with the idea that I would gain some insight into the lives and treatments of psychiatric patients living in the first half of the twentieth century. This was the case and it included vivid description of the treatment that was done at that time such as ice baths, insulin shock therapy and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

Although I never worked in a state hospital, when I toured them in the late 1960s, such treatments except occasional ECT under humane conditions were things of the past. As far as the possibility of someone spending most of their life committed to a mental institution based on the word of her father when she clearly did not have a mental illness, I would like to think that this would not have been possible. Certainly, in modern times from my experience someone being hospitalized against their will would have to go through a legal hearing with the patient being assigned an attorney if they don’t have one. Once in a hospital with treatment with modern-day medicines (which were not really available until the 1950s) most mental illness can be put at least in temporary remission with such treatment. Today, there would be reviews by multiple doctors with no mandate to keep the person in the hospital against their will unless they were a danger to themselves or others due to a mental illness. I would hope that nothing like Clara’s situation could occur today. Obviously, I can’t speak for every state hospital in the United States and certainly things were different in the 1930s.

There was another aspect of Clara’s case was particularly disturbing to me in that the psychiatrist in charge of her care was depicted as a mean, cruel, selfish man who was mainly responsible for Clara’s lost life. I felt it was an unfair indictment, which suggested all psychiatrists of that time might have been of the same cloth. I understand that the author has the creative choice to develop characters in whatever fashion she chooses. I probably would not be complaining if the character were a dishonest lawyer who did unsavory things in the interest of an interesting storyline but nevertheless, I felt that this book was stigmatizing my profession.

There was particular theme of this book, which also had a special interest to me. Three characters in the book were driven to try to understand their early origins. Izzy, understandably could not fathom why her beloved mother murdered her father. This ultimately led her to empathize with a schoolmate who had some parental trauma. It contributed to her mission to find Clara’s daughter who was essentially separated from her at birth, and hand over her mother’s diaries so she could know about her mother’s story. Clara’s daughter led a life of yearning to know what happened to her mother and Clara similarly went through life wanting to know what happened to her daughter. This is a variation of a theme, which I have seen played out in many people’s lives as well as in some interesting movies. Persons, sometimes separated at birth or when they are quite young often yearn to know their biological parent or parents with whom they may have had no relationship for decades. I have reflected on the psychodynamics of these issues in a psychiatry blog that I write. Therefore, I was particularly interested to see how they played out as major motivating factors in the characters in this book.

I believe the author Ellen Wiseman has created an intriguing story that will hold the interest of the reader whether or not you come from a psychiatric background.

Comment » | FG - Fiction General, FH - Fiction Historical, MHP - Mental Health/Psychiatry

How We Heal and Grow: The Power of Facing Your Feelings by Jeffery Smith, M.D.

October 7th, 2014 — 9:00am

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 5.38.33 PMHow We Heal and Grow: The Power of Facing Your Feelings by Jeffery Smith, M.D.

I was recently asked by my colleague and friend Dr. Jeffrey Smith, to write the Foreword for this new book that he has written. I was pleased to find it an excellent book. He offers a fresh and sensible way to look at how people develop dysfunctional patterns and facing feelings that have been avoided is the pathway to healing growth. He covers the full range of human problems from quirks to serous personality issues. He discussed the work of Freud, Mahler, Kernberg and many others including his own work. Interestingly the book is directed towards the lay public and I am sure will be received. However it really also belongs in the hands of therapists and any mental health professional who is involved with therapy. Dr. Smith has been teaching this subject to psychiatry residents and other psychotherapists for many years and is always very well received. He approaches the subject from a development al point of view. He points out how most of us have pockets of immaturity and how to outgrow them. Dr. Smith  discusses how and why the minds resist change. One of the central themes of Dr. Smith’s explanations is the phenomenon of catharsis where our underlying raw unprocessed feelings emerge and lose their power over us and are transformed when we share them with a therapist in the context of connection and safety. He describes this process and how it brings about an almost immediate change to the pathological emotions. I tend to look at the need for catharsis as something that has to occur over and over again which we often refer to as working through process. We do both agree that catharsis is an ongoing part of therapy. While this therapeutic work does require the empathic presence of the therapist. Dr. Smith also examines how some of this work may be able to done singularly when the person is trained in mindfulness in the Yoga and Buddhist tradition. The range and scope of the book is quite wide. He includes discussion of anxiety symptoms, trauma and depression although I felt he was little light on this latter subject particularly in regard to the role of loss. There is fascinating discussion on the dynamics of Multiple Personality Disorder in which he is a one of the few therapists with significant experience treating patients with this condition. Dr. Smith also brings his rich  experience in treating addiction into the book. He shares where dynamics and developmental experience is important and where the here and now social interaction is crucial. Included in the book is one of the best discussions of conscience and superego that I have ever come across. There is also and excellent section on the narcissistic personality and a description of how to understand a parent who had this condition and how to deal with important people in your life who have it. This is really a unique book that should have great appeal to therapists, students learning therapy and people interested in understanding their own emotional issues as well as those around them. I can also picture how this book may be very useful for people entering therapy, It will alert them to what to look for in themselves. It may very well facilitate the therapeutic process. In fact, I plan to give a copy of it to some patients who enter therapy with me. I am very pleased to conclude that Dr. Smith has made an outstanding contribution to our profession and to the education of the public.



Comment » | MHP - Mental Health/Psychiatry

Hidden Impact: What You Need to Know For The Next Disaster

July 4th, 2011 — 3:09am

Hidden Impact: What You Need to Know for the Next Disaster: a Practical Mental Health Guide for Clinicians: A Practical Mental Health Guide for Clinicians, by Frederick J. Stoddard, Jr., Craig L. Katz and Joseph P. Merlino,  Published by Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Boston, 2010, 249 pages

Review originally published in the Journal of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis and Dynamic Psychiatry

Most clinicians who have expertise in mental health aspects of disaster developed their skills in this area after they found themselves seeing patients following some tragic event. It is true that well trained clinicians know about acute stress, loss, grief and PTSD since these conditions come up in many forms with many patients. However, the application of their clinical skills in the midst and in the aftermath of disaster is a whole different ballgame. Having co-taught a course in disaster psychiatry for several years at the annual meeting of the  American Psychiatric Association, I heard this story many times as colleagues joined us for the course after experiencing a disaster in their area.

There are many courses seminars, journal articles and books which will inform you in great depth about the essential topics in disaster mental health, many of them written and edited by the editors and contributors of Hidden Impact. The book is originated from the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry (GAP) where the authors ore members of the Committee on Disasters and Terrorism . GAP has a tradition of identifying important areas of mental health and supporting publications in these areas. In my opinion this book fits the bill as the first book on this subject you should read or if you were only reading one book this is the one to read. It is the book that you will throw in your suitcase if you find yourself traveling to a site to render care in the aftermath of a disaster

In 250 pages this is  as comprehensive a course of study on this subject as I have ever seen in a book this size. It is well written, interesting and quite practical. Each chapter starts with a vignette, which either centers on victims of a disaster or on the caretakers faced with the dilemma of dealing with the aftermath of such an event.  The book is filled with practical information such as a comprehensive check list (and I do mean comprehensive) of  what to take with you if you go into an area to render care.( ie, pack your own power, take local maps, support socks, brimmed hat, iodine for water decontamination etc. There are clinical tables and charts to be sure you don’t miss the basics such as what to expect during the impact phase (first 48 hours) acute phase (1-8 weeks), post acute phase (2 months and beyond). There are many clinical screening tables such as the one for PTSD in children. There is a discussion and review of pharmacology in disaster situations. There are chapters on the use of telepsychiatry, liability, ethics, staff support as well as some of the latest thinking on resiliency. There is also a list of useful resources including websites

You should not be surprised to  find that if you are working in a  disaster situation, you will be interacting with the media as well with community leaders who have the responsibility to make reports to the media . In this regard the topic of risk communication and “how to do it“ is well covered in a succinct chapter. By the way, your clinical skills can also be useful to members of the working press who are often traumatized by working in a disaster environment. This latter clinical issue is discussed in the chapter about  understanding and helping first  responders. It is clear that the we need to apply our knowledge of the psychological impact of disasters not only to the primary victims  but also to the secondary victims who come to the aid of others. That of course includes ourselves. Perhaps one of the most valuable tables offered in the book is a table from SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) about  managing and preventing stress, which includes the signs that you may need stress management assistance and ways to help manage your own stress.

As an added bonus the book is approved for AMA PRA Category 1 CME credits with instructions for getting Continuing Medical Education Credits from the Medical Society of The State of New York.

Addendum:  This review would not be complete without mentioning a recent book which should be a companion piece to this one. It is edited also by two of the same authors Fredderick J Stoddard and Craig Katz along with Anand Pandya and includes chapters by Merlino and many others on similar and related topics. It is titled Disaster Psychiatry: Readiness, Evaluation and Treatment. Published by the American Psychiatric Press, 2011.

Comment » | MHP - Mental Health/Psychiatry

Handbook of AIDS Psychiatry

August 16th, 2010 — 7:43pm

Handbook of AIDS PsychiatryHandbook of AIDS Psychiatry by Mary Ann Cohen, Harold W. Goforth, Joseph Z. Lux, Sharon M. Batista, Sami Khalife, Kelly L. Cozza and Jocelyn Soffer, Oxford University Press, New York, 2010, 384pp, $49.95

Book Review originally written for and published in  the Journal of the American Academy of  Psychoanalysis and Dynamic Psychiatry

It is unusual for the Book Review Editor of this journal to request a review about a book that does not have psychoanalytic theory, dynamic psychiatry or the application of these ideas, as it’s main thesis. This book, which is about all aspects of AIDS, is such an exception. It is fitting that it be presented to the readers of this journal since this disease, more than any other modern day medical condition has impacted all aspects of psychiatry and mental health. Those of us who were practicing in the early 1980s, especially if you were doing hospital consultations, first saw this become known as a mysterious disease with dark spots on skin that was universally fatal. It then became associated with homosexuals and drug addicts The disease was believed to be highly contagious and caused by blood and sexual transmission. Medical personal became fearful of contracting the disease from patients. An accidental  needle stick while drawing blood or being nicked with a scalpel during surgery, which once was an inconvenience, now became a potentially fatal event. The disease weakened the immune system  and could lead to  deadly opportunistic infections. It ultimately was identified as being caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). From it’s discovery in 1981 to 2006 AIDS killed more than 25 million people and is still counting.

Not only did psychiatrists and mental health professional see the impact of this disease in our hospital work but those of us doing outpatient psychotherapy could not help but appreciate the effect of this pandemic on many of our patients. Homophobias, which could be multidetermined at any point in time, became greatly exaggerated because of fears of contamination from AIDS. There was a reexamination of all sexual behavior as people began to realize that heterosexual transmission of this disease was also a reality. Questions were being raised whether couples should exchange HIV testing results before engaging in sexual relations? Then there was the realization that AIDS was devastating the gay and bisexual community. We saw a grieving response that extended beyond immediate close friend and families. People throughout the country visited exhibits of  traveling AIDS quilts with patches made as a memorial to individual patients. There were forensic issues encountered by some of our colleagues where people were acting out their anger about being HIV positive by having unprotected sex . There were discussions among therapists of how to deal with a patient whom they  knew was HIV positive but was not telling his or her partners.

The NIH and the NIMH awarded huge amounts of grant money directed towards AIDS and HIV research in the past 25-30 years. As a result many of the psychiatrists practicing today were supported by these grants at some time in their career or were trained by people who had such support and were well oriented about the psychiatric and psychological aspects of AIDS.

All of this is what makes this 2010 first edition of the Handbook of AIDS Psychiatry such a valuable book. Psychiatrist Mary Ann Cohen, a pioneer in the AIDS field and her six outstanding colleagues have written a book, which includes just about everything we should or might want to know about HIV and AIDS. It is billed as a practical book, which it is, but it is also a definitive work on this subject with over 1500 references. Some of the chapters are adapted from an earlier book titled Comprehensive Textbook of AIDS Psychiatry edited by Drs. Mary Ann Cohen and Jack Gorman, published in 2008 also by Oxford. Seven of the contributors to the earlier work took on the task of developing this current book.

This is not an edited book. All the 14 chapters are written by some combination of the seven authors. Dr. Cohen was involved in all but two of the chapters. Drs. Battista and Soffer were listed as residents at the time the book was published. The first 13 chapters were each followed by multiple pages of references and the final chapter on resources had addresses, phone numbers and web sites.

The widespread imprint of this disease and the comprehensive approach of this book is illustrated in the first chapter where the authors lay out the setting and models of AIDS psychiatric care. They start with effective parenting and prevention of early childhood trauma and conclude with the sections on education, HIV testing, condom distribution, rehabilitation centers, chronic care facilities and nursing homes. They touch upon the prejudice and discrimination labeled as AIDSism which unfortunately is ubiquitous and is also discussed in other chapters in the book.

Chapters titled Biopsychosocial Approach and HIV Through The Life Cycle cover material with which a psychiatrist trained in the past twenty-five years should be quite familiar. However the authors are not content with just reminding the reader to take a comprehensive history in areas relevant to this disease, but they offer over 100 suggested questions in doing a sexual history, suicide evaluation, substance abuse history or a violence evaluation. The following are examples of a few questions, which you may not have thought to use:

1. (Taking a sexual history) How do your cultural beliefs affect your sexuality?

2- Are you aware that petroleum-based lubricants (Vaseline and others) can cause leakage of condoms?

3- (To an LGBT person) What words do you prefer to describe your sexual identity?

4- (Evaluating suicidality) Do you plan to rejoin someone you lost?

5- (Taking a substance abuse history) What led to your first trying (the specific substance or substances)?

6- What effect did it have on the problem, crisis, or trauma in your life?

While it is stated that little is known about the relationship between aging and manifestations of psychiatric disorders in HIV positive persons, the discussion and questions raised about this topic in these chapters seem particularly important as treatment is now allowing people with AIDS to become senior citizens.

In the chapter titled Psychotherapeutic Treatment of Psychiatric Disorders it was noted that the enhanced understanding of the conflicts and struggles of the HIV positive  patient afforded by psychodynamic psychotherapy  has been described by multiple authors. This modality of treatment may be especially suited for patients with a trauma history as physical changes in the body and relationship stresses can awaken conflicts triggered by early trauma and neglect. This history of childhood emotional, physical and sexual trauma as well as neglect is also reported to be associated with risk behaviors and is prevalent in persons with HIV.  Other major themes, which were identified, that could surface in psychodynamic work include fears about mortality with the erosion of defensive denial as the illness progresses and conflicts surrounding sexuality. There also was a review of interpersonal psychotherapy, CBT, spiritual focused care, and various group therapy formats.

The chapters on psychiatric aspects of  stigma of HIV/ AIDS  will also be of  particular interest to the readers of this journal who are usually quite involved in dealing with subtle nuances in psychotherapy. Victim blaming, addict phobia and homophobia also called heterosexism are discussed in this context. While clinicians usually don’t have any trouble identifying stigma when they see it, there are scales which can be administered in both research protocols and clinical settings.

Dr. Cozza is the lead author in the chapter concerned with psychopharmacologic treatment issues. It is the longest chapter in the book and can best be summarized by their conclusion that the prescribing of psychotropic or any other class of medications to HIV positive patients taking ART is a complicated undertaking. The chapter provides an explanation of this statement in a narrative style as well as with some detailed tables showing the propensities of various medications to cause inhibition and induction.


Although psychiatrists are usually not involved with the treatment of physical symptoms or the actual administration of therapeutic drugs for  medical conditions, if they work with patients with AIDS they will be discussing various symptoms and complications. Dr. Goforth and Cohen put together two chapters which clearly explain symptoms of AIDS, as well as the medical illnesses associated with them. They review fatigue, sleep disorders, appetite problems, nausea and vomiting with a complete differential diagnosis and intervention options. The full range of endocrine problems, dermatological disorders , HIV associated opthamalogical diseases, malignancies, liver and kidney disease as well as the potential symptoms of these conditions are covered.

The one chapter, which was written by four authors, was titled Palliative and Spiritual Care of Persons with HIV and AIDS. This not only covered a discussion of the management of pain, other physical symptoms, behavioral symptoms including violent behavior and suicidality but it offered a review of models for spiritual care. The work of Breitbart and colleagues with cancer patients using meaning  centered interventions based on Victor Frankels ideas was introduced as was Kissane and colleagues description of a syndrome of  “demoralization” in the terminally ill which is distinct from depression. It consists of a triad of hopelessness, loss of meaning and existential distress expressed as a desire for death. A treatment approach for this state is outlined. This chapter concludes with a review of the role of psychiatrists and other clinicians at the time of death and afterwards. This includes a discussion of anticipatory, acute and complicated grief.

Although HIV disease and AIDS is no longer the mysterious disease which people are afraid to talk about and healthcare workers dread seeing patients with, nevertheless it is a very serious illness which cuts across all specialties and has great relevance for psychiatrists and other mental health professionals. It is estimated that more than one million people are living with HIV in the USA. Even now with retroviral treatment available, this disease is expected to infect 90 million people in Africa resulting in a minimum of 18 million orphans. Needless to say, this book should be translated into many languages and should be available internationally. This book gives us a full background about AIDS and allows psychiatrists and other mental health professionals to have this fund of knowledge at our fingertips. Also, if and when there is another deadly virus that appears on the scene, our profession will have a model and a valuable compendium of how to approach it, which is something we did not have thirty years ago.

To purchase this book on Amazon, please click here 

Comment » | M - Medical, MHP - Mental Health/Psychiatry

Unhinged by Daniel J. Carlat

June 13th, 2010 — 2:47am

The following is a book review that I wrote which was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis and Dynamic Psychiatry. It is followed by a brief Q & A with the author.

UnhingedUNHINGED  Daniel J. Carlat, M.D. Free Press 255 pages 2010

Dan Carlat, in addition to practicing psychiatry, writing his popular newsletter and blog, editing a series of psychiatry books for Lippincott/Klowers (one of which I co-authored) and writing monthly blogs for Psychiatric Times periodically (as do I)   has written expose pieces about psychiatry for the N.Y Times and other widely circulated publications. He has spoken out about the influence of the pharmaceutical industry on the practice of psychiatry and particularly the large amount of money earned by psychiatrists from the drug companies  often without disclosures. This latter point has been considered to have  ethical and legal ramifications. Knowing this background, I eagerly approached the opportunity to review his new book Unhinged  published by Free Press    (2010) and given a subtitle of  “The Trouble with Psychiatry-A Doctor’s Revelations about a Profession in Crisis.”

Early in the book, Dr. Carlat shared his own experience as a practicing psychiatrist where he specialized in prescribing medications and referred patients in need of talk therapy to a “psychotherapist.” He expressed his view “that most people are under the misconception that an appointment with a psychiatrist will involve counseling, probing questions and digging into the psychological meaning of one’s distress.” He goes on to site data which shows that 1 out of 10 psychiatrists offer therapy to all their patients. (I am not sure if this is a valid point since some patients clearly don’t need or want psychotherapy.) He then talks about the well known income differential which favors providing psychopharmacology treatment over psychotherapy. He provides a case history where he did not tell a patient that psychotherapy might work just as well as medication. He said that he decided upon medication because he received little training in  psychotherapy during his three years of psychiatry residency (Mass General) and that he “ doesn’t do psychotherapy  because “I can’t do psychotherapy.” One of the themes of this book is Carlat’s odyssey to ultimately deciding to learn more about psychotherapy and follow a mode of his father who is a psychiatrist and develop a practice which combines psychopharmacology and psychotherapy even if he doesn’t make quite as much income as he did in the past. He shares the interactions with colleagues, teachers and mentors as well as patient vignettes, which lead him to this decision.

This book also examines other controversial issues. For example, Dr. Carlat discusses DSM which he calls “ The Bible of Psychiatry.” He believes that the tradition of psychological curiosity has been dying a gradual death and that DSM is in part the cause and the consequence of this transformation of our profession. He argues that as a result psychiatrists are less interested in “why” and more interested in “what”. (I thought that psychiatrists could chew gum and do other things at the same time. If we continue to use and refine it, DSM allows us to communicate better, do research and get paid.) Carlat interviewed both Bob Spitzer and Alan Francis, the leaders of DSM III and IV respectively who are  both quite critical of the emerging DSMV.

Not surprising, knowing of the previous writings of the author, a good part of the book dealt with the relationship between psychiatry and the pharmaceutical industry starting off with a chapter on “How Medication Became the New Therapy.” There is a  description of the evolution of various drugs used  in psychiatric  practice including the story of Prozac as well as examples of how and why new drugs are introduced as patents on old ones expire. While most of these stories are fairly well known to psychiatrists, it may be surprising to see the behind the scenes descriptions of how side effects such as sexual dysfunction and suicidality were initially minimized and ultimately handled.

The chapter on “How Companies Sell Psychiatrists on their Drugs” reflects some of the writing that Carlat has made in the popular media. He personalizes this important topic by describing his own  previous  relationship with various pharmaceutical representatives. He also reveals the fact that drug representatives have access to each doctors’ prescribing pattern before they visit him or her. He discusses how friendliness and  bringing little gifts such as books or one’s favorite Starbucks coffee have played a subtle but distinct influence on doctors and their prescribing habits. (There have been recent restrictions on these practices.)

Dr. Carlat also outlines his own experience of being a “hired gun” where he gave paid talks to primary care doctors and psychiatrists earning as much as $30,000 in one year. He told how he and his wife were flown to NY and stayed at luxurious hotels and ate in fine restaurants paid for by the pharmaceutical firm for which he was a speaker. He eventually decided that this was morally wrong and stopped this practice. He did go on to write about other psychiatrists whom he reports have made millions of dollars and in some cases were also receiving research grants.  He told  how they were not reporting to their universities, the income that they were receiving which was required. He details Iowa Senator Grassley’s investigations into very well known psychiatrists. He raises ethical questions about doctors taking pharmaceutical money while promoting off label use of various medications for treatment of ADHD and bipolar disorders in children.

There is a discussion of what Carlat calls “the seduction of technology”, specifically referring to the promotion of Vagal Nerve Stimulation and Trans Magnetic Stimulation.    (I observed how the latter technique was actively being promoted at the recent APA Meeting in New Orleans).  Interestingly, Carlat concludes this chapter with a statement that “psychiatrists  need to reacquaint themselves with the missing skill of psychotherapy.”

Perhaps one of the most interesting and controversial thesis of this book is the author’s conclusion that “medical school is the wrong place to train psychiatrists.” He believes that there should be programs that integrate psychopharmacology and psychological technique from the beginning of the training of psychologists . He goes on to say that  psychologists should ultimately prescribe medication as well as do psychotherapy. He describes one experimental model that was briefly used in the 1970s  at  a teaching institution in California but failed to be accepted as a model for licensed care. .

Whether or not you  agree with the arguments, analysis or conclusions of Dr. Carlat, there is no doubt that he has written a very thought provoking book that is based on his own experience with a reasonable attempt at documenting many of his statements. (There are 16 pages of notes and references).  His discovery of psychotherapy as a valid form of treatment will not surprise many of the readers of the journal where this review is appearing. His idea that that psychiatry at this time is troubled and in crisis is probably best judged by a longer historical view. However I suspect that this book will be used by historians to reflect some of thinking of the time as will be  another book written by the psychiatrist Peter Kramer  which came out  17 years ago titled Listening to Prozac . In the meantime Dr. Carlat’s views are out there for discussion and debate.

Take Five With the Author

Following are the answers to five questions I recently asked Dr. Carlat for this blog:

Dr B: Can you describe the reaction of your colleagues to this book?

Dr. C: The reaction from colleagues has been mixed. Most have agreed with the central idea, which is that psychiatry has moved too far into psychopharmacology and has largely abandoned therapy. Many have disagreed with my fairly radical proposals, such as creating an entirely new training system that would be an alternative to medical school and residency. And of course, some have become positively apoplectic at the idea that psychologists can prescribe from a limited formulary safely. So I’ve had my share of fan mail and hate mail.

Dr. B: Do you believe that at present there is enough transparency about possible conflicts of interest in national presentations at meetings and in journal articles?

Dr. C: No, all we get is the name of the company. We don’t get the amount of money, nor the name of the product that the presenter has promoted. These pieces of information are critical for the audience to judge the likelihood that money is affecting the accuracy of a presentation.

Dr. B: Do you have any ideas how the new healthcare legislation (Obamacare) will impact on the practice of psychiatry ?

Dr. C:It will increase the demand for psychiatrists, simply because we will be adding about 30 million people to the health insurance rolls. Some have argued that the emphasis on gate-keepers and accountable care organizations will take business away from psychiatrists, but I can’t imagine PCPs have either the time, interest, or expertise to deal with our patients.

Dr.B: Do you see psychotherapy by psychiatrists being viable in over the next 5- 10 years.?

Dr.C: Not unless psychiatrists are willing to take a drastic pay cut. There’s way of prettying this one up. Insurance companies are never going to pay nearly as much for an hour of therapy as for 3 or 4 psychopharm visits. So the more therapy you choose to do, the less money you will make in direct proportion. That’s assuming, of course, that you are taking insurance. As many as a third of psychiatrists have opted out of insurance and charge their regular fees for therapy, much higher than what they get reimbursed by insurance. Personally, I don’t think that’s a viable option from the standpoint of ethics and health care policy. And it’s demeaning to us. We’re saying, essentially, “our skills are not valuable enough for your health insurance to pay what we think we’re worth, so we don’t take insurance.” I’m not one of those who villainizes insurance companies, partly because many of my trusted psychiatrist colleagues work for insurance companies, and I know what they are up against. They make a serious attempt to come up with a fair market price for therapy, and they have found no compelling empirical evidence to suggest that a psychiatrists’ therapy session is worth double a social workers’.

Dr. B: Can you tell us about any new books or projects with which you are involved?

Dr. C: I am just extremely busy managing my publishing business right now. I wish I had time to write another book, but I have nothing in the wings.

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