Sunday, November 04, 2012

Yes, You're Better



One of the fun things about Shrink Rap is that periodically ClinkShrink and I like to wrap our hands around each others' necks and squeeze really hard while screaming.  

So let me refer you to ClinkShrink's post below,  Am I Recovered Yet.  Read that first and come back.  It's a rich post with many different agendas. Don't worry,  we are on opposites sides of town and we are both getting sufficient airflow. 

1.  Clink talks about Tonier Cain who was horribly abused as a child, both physically and sexually.  Ms. Cain's abuse led her to a dysfunctional life of drug abuse, prostitution, and repeated incarcerations.  By dealing (whatever that means) with her trauma, she has overcome these problems, she now lectures on the importance of dealing with trauma, and she is a productive member of society.  I know nothing about Ms. Cain, this is what I gleaned from ClinkShrink's post.

2. Because of Ms. Cain's efforts, laws have been passed requiring that anyone working in a state facility must be trained in trauma-informed care, which ClinkShrink tells us has not been proven to be effective in studies. Remember, Ms. Cain is an individual who benefited, and studies look at populations, not individuals.

----Dinah's commentary:  I am going to stay out of the evidence-based medicine question because, well, evidence-based studies are limiting, they don't look at the full range of what we do clinically, studies are often conflicting, and sadly, we've seen that pharmaceutical companies have skewed some studies.  
      Moving on, I am against the concept of legislating medical care and medical standards.  I agree with Clink (take a breath now) that there should not be laws requiring training in trauma-informed care.  There should be industry standards and mandates; lawmakers shouldn't be requiring CPR training.  The law doesn't require me to have a flu shot.  My hospital, however, has said that if I'd like to continue treating patients there, I need a flu shot (I had a flu shot).  There was a really nice article on the intrusion of legislation into the practice of medicine a few weeks ago in The New England Journal of Medicine, see  "Legislative Interference With the Physician-Patient Relationship."

3.  Clink goes on to question whether Ms. Cain is really better if she continues to be fixated on issues related to her trauma.  Wow.  Let's see, she was a  homeless, drug abusing, criminal who sucked resources from society (I'm assuming that the tax payer funded her forays into prison) who now living in free society, working to help others, on a mission (I love people who have missions), and doing well for herself.  Yup, she's better.  Is she cured?  I don't know.  I don't even care. I'm with the commenter who suggested that the patient is the one who determines better.  She's feeling good about herself, presumably making a living (there's an award winning movie), lobbying for something she believes in, looks like she's raising her kids, getting a message across.  She's not homeless, not smoking crack, not in jail.  Does she need to be an accountant to be 'better?"  Plenty of people get better by focusing on their past problems.  Is the incarcerated drug addict who later becomes an employed addictions counselor who helps others not 'better' because he still lives his days thinking about addiction-related issues?  Yes, they are better.  Is it any different from the person who goes on to be an oncologist because his mother died or cancer, or the person who becomes a psychiatrist because he had personal or family experience with psychiatric problems?  What about my short friend who became a pediatric endocrinologist?

4.  Is she Cured?  Clink defines this as being symptom-free, able to move on to a life not involving a focus on their problems,who no longer requires resources and frees up these scarce resources so that others can use them.  What a funny way to define "cure" in a field where 'serious mental illnesses' are often chronic or recurrent.  I'll go with Freud here: "Well" is about the ability to work and to love.  It's not about the ability to live life free of symptoms. Is she Cured?  What does is matter?  Why does that need to be judged?

5.  Clink tells us that her goal is to get someone to zero symptoms (--I would never qualify, I didn't sleep well last night as I was worried about the election) and free them of being her patient.  "Government money for mental health services is limited, and should be directed toward people with serious mental illnesses and evidence based practices."

I'm not sure what ClinkShrink is getting at here.  I agree that government money should not be used for mandating training in trauma-informed care.  We don't mandate training in schizophrenia (it comes as part of psychiatry residency training and it's mandated by those who oversee residency training programs, not legislators).  I'm not sure what she means by 'government money' or by 'serious mental illnesses.'  So a patient with Medicare should not be allowed to access mental health services for a mild mental illness?  What's mild? Anxiety?  Election-angst?  Irritability with co-workers?  What if a person finds that a medication or a regular psychotherapy appointment helps their personal comfort level, and that by maximizing their comfort, they are better able to function as a parent and thus help a future generation?  What if having somewhere to process their issues makes it easier for them to function as a surgeon, or as a teacher. Okay, you say, not government funds.  But then what if our surgeon who feels better with care, or our legislator who influences the lives of thousands, or our public health researcher who benefits from care, what if they turn 65 and are now having services paid for by Medicare, do we bounce them off?   We don't tell people they can't have repeated doctor's appointments for belly pain, why should we limit care to those with "serious mental illness" whatever that is.  

Okay, I'm ranting. Clink, let go of my neck now.