Changing Minds, Changing Lives

I realize a therapist or psychiatrist has a limited amount of time in an intake to delve into what’s going on in a person’s life.

Yet I make the case for asking thoughtful questions as a follow-up to what the patient has told you instead of making an automatic assumption about what they’re capable of.

This blog entry is my Open Letter to Providers: stop stigmatizing and stereotyping the very individuals you’re in business to treat and to help recover.

If you think a person diagnosed with schizophrenia or another mental illness can’t recover: why exactly did you go into this field if you don’t think that what you do can help others recover?

Do you take great pride in “spinning your wheels” as the saying goes without moving anywhere in what you can do for patients?

I was told I was too low-functioning for therapy. Years later I was told I was too high-functioning for therapy. I was told I couldn’t possibly have schizophrenia. I was told that going into therapy would set me back and jeopardize my recovery.

Four different therapists: four wildly divergent assessments.

If you are a provider, I urge you to change your mind about what people diagnosed with schizophrenia or another mental illness can do. You’re responsible for your actions. If you don’t think we can recover, what do you think we can do with our lives?

Do you really take pride in spinning your wheels when you think no one can recover?

Do you really think stringing us along in endless “treatment” that could lead to dependency and despair instead is the right thing to do?

This reflects on your own self-worth as much as it reflects on your patients.

Take a tip from a doctor who told me: “The only acceptable treatment outcome is total symptom relief.”

Bella De Paulo, PhD in her book Singled Out detailed a research study that bordered on being unethical in my opinion. A teacher was told certain students were intelligent and other students weren’t smart. Don’t you know the results of the study showed that the teacher treated the supposedly intelligent students in a positive way and they got better grades? The teacher reacted differently to the allegedly stupid kids and those kids got poor grades.

Providers have an extra requirement to do no harm to their patients.

Not everyone is like me and is going to champion herself and her goal of getting a full-time job and living independently. Twenty-five years after I dared do that I will always wonder why I was able to believe in myself and think I could do what I set out to do. The reason I was able to speak out might always elude me.

This is why I will not ever place the goal of getting to recovery solely on the actions of the individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia or another mental illness. Not everyone sees a mountain like I did and wants to move it. Most people need encouragement and positive feedback along the way in their recovery.

I’ll end here by saying that if you’re a provider, you owe it to yourself to elevate the status of your patients: in your eyes, in their eyes.

Change your mind and you just might change another person’s life for the better.

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Author: Chris Bruni

Christina Bruni is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir Left of the Dial. She owns a resume writing and career help business. She contributed a chapter "Recovery is Within Reach" to Benessere Psicologico: Contemporary Thought on Italian American Mental Health. As well as an author and activist, Bruni is an artist and a fitness buff.

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