I still remember the first time I went to a therapy session. I was 17 years old, and I saw my therapist at a family services center near my house. I was confused during most of our session so while I was trying to answer her questions honestly, I didn’t also know what she was getting at. I saw this therapist for a few months, and then I didn’t give it any thought until a few years later. But in the ten years since that day, there is so much I’ve learned about therapy: it’s goal, it’s purpose, how it works for individuals, etc. But I had one huge misconception that I didn’t shake off until recently, and I want to share it today in the hope that it can help anyone who thinks therapy might be worth exploring.Continue reading
This week we’re talking with a mental health PRO! Dr. Laura F. Dabny, M.D. is a psychiatrist who has run her own psychotherapy practice in Virginia Beach for nearly 20 years. She was kind enough to answer some of my questions about mental health and its place in today’s society.
What is a popular misconception about seeing a psychiatrist?
That we are judgmental, critical or going to tell a patient what to do. Instead, we are impartial, supportive and help you find the best solution for your problems.
When should someone consider getting help for their mental health issues?
I define that by when your problem, however “big” or “small,” negatively impacts your relationships or job performance, it’s time to get help.
How, especially in the beginning, can a person learn to trust a professional with their mental health?
By reading my last answer a few times! Just kidding. There’s nothing wrong with calling and asking to speak to the mental health person before making the appointment.
Reputable and trustworthy professionals will be glad to do this. It may help to see if you “click” over the phone before going in. I also strongly recommend that if you get a bad vibe for any reason in the first appointment, don’t make a follow-up appointment. An initial evaluation is a way to test your connection with the therapist. It doesn’t commit you in any way.
What advice would you give to someone who is looking to get help for their mental health?
Break the concept of “getting help” into bite-size chunks. You don’t have to throw yourself into months of therapy. Start first by simply checking out some websites or some blogs on mental health. Then maybe just call and talk to the receptionist about the practice. These casual first steps might help get you over the nervousness about making an appointment.
What is the best way to address possible stigmas of mental health?
Luckily this seems to be improving. I think reading books by accomplished people with mental illness such as Kay Jamison’s book (Unquiet Mind) helps balance the media’s skewed perception that people with mental illness are untreatable or misfits.
Anything you’d like to add?
Although I’m an M. D., I do believe in using psychotherapy to help ween people off psychotropic medications. Big Pharma really pushed these medications as miracle drugs in the ’90s when I was in training. While they can be helpful, there are many people that can benefit from therapy or short-term use of medication, and therefore don’t need the medications for life. It’s important to get a second opinion if someone recommends medication without giving a list of pros and cons of the different types of therapy and medication usage.