In previous parts to this series, we were able to understand the types of the problems that would lead you to seek a psychiatrist, types of psychotherapists, and decisions related to ailments and treatments.
Now it is time to talk about what you expect from your doctor, what are the specific rules for psychotherapy, and how do you decide whether you should continue to see a therapist or not?
Psychotherapy and psychological sessions have rules, ethics, and etiquette, all of which are designed to protect patients and protect the profession from violations.
The doctor or psychologist is more protective of the patient than trainers or psychological consultants. The following rules are an attempt to collect the most important specific rules for psychotherapy, and violating these rules is so harmful for the patient.
- Time: the session should be a time completely dedicated to the patient, not a family, friends or even the psychiatrist’s time. This time is only for the patient.
- No religious, moral, or sociological judgments: the patient inside the session is a person who should not be subjected to any kind of judgments that surrounding him in life. This matter is difficult and therapists must be trained on how to do it.
- Maintaining absolute secrecy: the therapist does not have the right to tell anyone about anything that happens in the session without permission from the patient, in order to maintain the patient’s privacy. The rule has very limited exceptions, with the only exceptions being matters that may harm the patient, others, or courts of law.
- Adequate information: You have the right to ask therapists about him or her, age, education, and the school they follow in your treatment.
- Participation in the treatment plan: you have the right to be part of your treatment plan, and to find a good plan with your therapist and to be convinced of that plan. In addition, you will be able to decide together the timing of the sessions and how long the treatment will take; however, treatment should not be limited to time. You need to know that he has the right to say “I don’t know”, but you need to know that he does not know, too.
- No physical contact: the psychiatrist has no right to make physical contact with the patient unless it is within the context of socially accepted greetings, like a hand shake. In fact, sometimes this plays a role in treatment, but with rare exceptions. These kinds of treatments need elongated periods and mutual trust. It is not preferable to resort to this unless it is an absolute necessity.
- Respect and acceptance: the psychiatrist is not obliged to agree with all your stances and decisions; however, both of you must be respected, and whatever decisions are made must be respected as well, even if they go against the treatment plan. Sometimes you are given the choice to either implement these decisions or continue the treatment instead. In all cases, the decision must be respected.
- Complaints: you have the right to complain about the psychiatrist, the psychiatrist’s methods, the time, financial cost, about something that has upset you, or was not understandable to you. The first person you can vent to in all cases. If you feel like you are unable to vent to your therapist directly, that indicates a problem in your relationship.
- The therapeutic relationship: it is considered one of the strongest, most solid relationships; however, it cannot be thought of as friendship or brotherhood. It is a doctor-patient relationship. This kind of relationship is considered safe for all involved parties, and if it is turned into any other kind of relationship, you must be careful and consider that a red flag.
- Communication: the psychiatrist will agree with you on the time and type of communication allowed with him, and you are allowed to negotiate with him on these details outside the sessions. Some therapists will refuse to communicate outside the sessions, and that is also their right.
- The rules and parameters are many: however, what is most important is what not to expect from a therapist, because some issues are not the psychiatrist’s role to play.
This will be the topic we discuss next week, in the final episode of this series, and afterwards we will discuss different issues.
Ahmad Aboul-Wafa is a specialist psychiatrist.