These three shrinks are ‘in’
Psychiatrists co-author book to explain their field
Friday, January 21, 2011 at 11:41 am
Dr. Steven Daviss is a psychiatrist, but he doesn’t read minds.
That notion is among many myths about his profession that he often dispels. Because there’s so much confusion, he and two colleagues started a blog about the field. The blog expanded into a podcast, and now a book — "Shrink Rap: Three Psychiatrists Explain Their Work" — which will be published this spring through Johns Hopkins University Press.
The book combines his insight with that of fellow psychiatrists Dinah Miller and Annette Hanson. Miller is an outpatient psychotherapist who works in private practice, while Hanson is a forensic psychiatrist who works in correctional facilities.
"We saw the blog as kind of a thing to educate people about issues in psychiatry, not just illnesses per se, but a lot of mystery behind the practice," said Daviss, who’s chairman of psychiatry at Baltimore Washington Medical Center in Glen Burnie. "A lot of people see this as a mysterious thing, and they don’t understand it."
The book features some rewritten posts from the blog, as well as other issues specifically tailored to the book. The online audience has consisted of other psychiatrists and health professionals, as well as individuals who are seeking mental health resources.
The book contains vignettes about fictional patients going through various scenarios. For instance, one part follows a patient who’s taken to the emergency room, and relatives mention that the patient has been hallucinating. The reader is walked through what the emergency room experience would be like for the patient, and the process of admitting the patient to the psychiatric unit. The book also identifies psychiatric unit workers and defines their roles.
The three psychiatrists-turned-authors were acquainted through the Maryland Psychiatric Society. Daviss was president of the group in 2004, and Miller held the position last year. Miller had written a novel and mentioned she was interested in writing a blog. Daviss pointed her in the right direction, and the three decided to collaborate on the Shrink Rap blog, which debuted in April 2006.
Shrink Rap’s first year laid out the site’s ground rules, where Miller wrote that the blog’s intention was for psychiatrists to discuss issues pertaining to the field. Over the years, there was some shop talk — a gripe about $2,100 exam recertification fees and information about the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act — mixed with lighter fodder about pets, e-mail signatures and awkward patient questions.
There also were discussions about medical issues such as Aspergers syndrome and Alzheimer’s. They also wondered how much information patients wanted about their psychiatrists, and whether they preferred to have their doctors remain mysterious.
"Is there something about having that element, that distance, that assumption that the therapist is a little bit mysterious … (even if it’s just not true)?" Miller wrote in a 2009 post. "Sometimes my patients ask questions about my life or express surprise that I’d like — or do — something that isn’t in keeping with the image they hold of me."
That post elicited 25 responses. A commenter identified as Pleochroia
aid demystification was a good thing.
aid demystification was a good thing.
"For those who need the mystery, or should I say total mystery, well, they don’t have to read your book or listen to your podcast or read your blog," Pleochoria wrote on the blog entry. "Presumably those in your audience are eager for a little demystification."
The three doctors began the book-writing process in 2007. They tried working on separate portions by using a desktop word processor, then switched to Google Docs. The book will be published in April.
"We get a lot of calls from family members saying, ‘My son has an addiction and he’s hallucinating and I can’t get him help,’" Daviss said. "People with these sorts of questions, I think this would be helpful to them. People involved in the mental health system and the correction system would also find this interesting."