Are psychiatrists becoming like ‘candy’ dispensers?

There’s a really interesting article in the New York Times today, titled: “Talk doesn’t pay, so psychiatry turns to drug therapy,” written by Gardiner Harris. It’s basically about how the low insurance reimbursement rate for talk therapy has led to many psychiatrists opting simply to treat each patient by prescribing them pills. Here’s an excerpt:

Medicine is rapidly changing in the United States from a cottage industry to one dominated by large hospital groups and corporations, but the new efficiencies can be accompanied by a telling loss of intimacy between doctors and patients. And no specialty has suffered this loss more profoundly than psychiatry.

Trained as a traditional psychiatrist at Michael Reese Hospital, a sprawling Chicago medical center that has since closed, Dr. Levin, 68, first established a private practice in 1972, when talk therapy was in its heyday.

Then, like many psychiatrists, he treated 50 to 60 patients in once- or twice-weekly talk-therapy sessions of 45 minutes each. Now, like many of his peers, he treats 1,200 people in mostly 15-minute visits for prescription adjustments that are sometimes months apart. Then, he knew his patients’ inner lives better than he knew his wife’s; now, he often cannot remember their names. Then, his goal was to help his patients become happy and fulfilled; now, it is just to keep them functional.

The whole article really shines a  light on a quandary that the psychiatric discipline is in.



One Comment to “Are psychiatrists becoming like ‘candy’ dispensers?”

  1. Matt B., I used to see my psychiatrist weekly for therapy, but since last year she told me to just come see her every 3 months or so (I do have a therapist I see weekly elsewhere). Maybe what that article is talking about is really the reason why I don’t see my psychiatrist often, not because I’m doing so much better….. There’s a book by Ethan Watters, “Crazy Like Us,” about the spread of how America diagnoses/dispenses mental illness to other countries. I haven’t read the whole book, but from what I’ve read, it’s really fascinating.

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