3. Defuse tense situations. There are some amazingly simple techniques that psychology can teach us to defuse even the most stressful situations. For example, when faced with an angry person, simply repeating back their own words and showing empathy (“You are angry because you have been waiting an hour. I can see how that would be very upsetting.”) can often completely alleviate a bad situation. Another example is learning how to respond to comments that are personally hurtful, such as inappropriate sexual remarks. The very straightforward technique of just repeating back the offensive statement in a calm and controlled manner, and then verbalizing that the remark is not appropriate (“You say that I look sexy today? That is a sexist thing to say, and not appropriate to say to your doctor/employee.”) works incredibly well to take back control of a negative situation.
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4. Maximize work efficiency and find work-life balance. Uncompleted charts stacking up? Psychology can help you learn to stop procrastinating and get your notes done by avoiding perfectionism and insecurity that makes us over-document. Running late all the time at the office? Psychology can teach us how to schedule realistically, and how to smoothly transition long-winded patients. The list goes on and on.
5. Take control of your life. Sometimes doctors feel completely trapped—perhaps by medical school debt, a non-compete contract or a large mortgage. But the reality is that even when the choices don’t look great, we still do have choices. We can continue to work in our current system, using psychology to learn strategies to work around the challenges. Or we can decide to make a complete change by getting a different job, working locum tenens or even stepping outside of the system completely by opting out of Medicare and third-party payers.
Avoiding the stigma of seeking psychological care
First, we should all be aware that the Mental Health Parity Act, updated under George W. Bush in 2009, requires that health insurance companies cover psychologic care to the same degree as they cover physical care. Finding a psychologist that accepts your health insurance plan may be another story, but theoretically, group health insurance should cover psychological counseling.
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With that being said, we do need to be conscious of our state licensing board requirements. While some medical boards ask only about current impairment from mental health issues, other states ask more vague questions about past issues, or ask if you have ever sought help for mental health.