Thursday, September 13, 2007

Who's Your Mama?

You know it's a bit confabulated.....

So one of my patients happened to mention today that her son is a coach in a league one of my kids plays in. I must have known this, she must have mentioned it when I first took her history, eighteen months and two playing seasons ago. Today, at the end of the day, hours after she left and as I was writing progress notes, it suddenly hit me: her son is my kid's coach. It was this funny, disconcerting feeling.

Now the fact that a patient's son coaches my kid isn't really a big deal. Only I wish I could say that my kid is the ideal player, the coach is a wonderful coach, that I've never actually had reason to speak with the coach, or if I did, that it was a warm and rewarding experience. Let's just say that's not the case, the coach is a little weird, my kid once had an issue and I'd felt a need to intervene.

And now I can wonder, who knows what? This particular patient has no qualms about announcing her struggles with psychiatric illness. I know the son knows she has shrink, I can't imagine my name doesn't get uttered here and there-- she comes to sessions and sometimes says "Little Howie said to be sure I tell you such-and-such." Only I have a fairly common last name and like my patient, my family members all seem to have different last names (--Max
has requested that I not publish his last name on the blog). I now can wonder if Coach related to me, Neurotic Mom, all the while thinking You're My Mom's Shrink. Or maybe he worried that she tells me personal things about him. Maybe we've had a whole unspoken relationship that I just missed. So, Coach Howie, if you're out there, rest assured that Mom says all nice things about you.

It's fine that I treat Coach Howie's Mom. This is the part that's disconcerting-- I realized that I relate a bit differently to different people in different places in my life. With patients and their families, I keep it pretty even and I try to remain professional (I hope). No ducks at all. Without even trying, I'm a slightly different person when I'm the doc than when I'm the mom. In my non-doc role, I talk more, I listen less, and I tell raunchier jokes. I might look to Coach Howie for wisdom or understanding. If I'm frustrated I might be more sarcastic than I'd ever be with the family member of a patient. I'd never complain to the family member of a patient, even in a non-clinical setting, that he was an idiot for not starting my kid when the kid he did start was clearly an inferior player. (--oh, I didn't really do that, but it was fun to confabulate).

Coach Howie, you have a lovely mom.


Anonymous said...

This is the interesting things with shrinks-All like to say and believe they are great listeners-The piece of information the patient provided appears to be every important information as it invovles your personal life (I think that would be very important to me)-Makes one wonder just what shrinks do hear?

Rach said...

The joys of wearing multiple hats, particularly when your social circles aren't that big to start with.

In an ideal world, people would be able to perceive of you as one thing in one context and as something else in a completely different context.

I have that problem but flipped around.

Anonymous said...

I think it is weird when you see your therapist, while out grocery shopping. It is like when you were a kid and saw your teacher at the shopping mall on Saturday. Eww. They are totally out of their normal habitat and it freaks you out. Then you move on to hide behind bread displays, hoping they have gone through the cash already.

Gerbil said...

anon #2- I once saw one of my old therapists at the grocery store. She'd just had her first child and was stocking up on baby formula. I happened to mention this during group supervision the next week (I was a clinical psych student at the time), as we were discussing seeing one's therapist out of context, and one of my supervisors said, "Well, there you have proof that your therapist eats!"

I replied, "Yeah, and given the contents of her cart, she has sex too!"

NeoNurseChic said...

I think that as students/patients/etc may hate seeing their teachers/therapists/etc out in the "real world", the opposite is often true as well. Well, since I'm not a therapist, I don't know if that is true entirely, but the general feeling from medical personnel seems to be that they don't really want to run into their patients in the real world. However, there are a group of students/patients/etc, like myself, who enjoy running into teachers/therapists/etc in the real world. I never got bothered by it. I always enjoyed seeing them in the context of their real, daily lives.

A friend of mine is a music teacher at a major high school 5 minutes up the road from me, and he looked at moving into my apartment complex here, but decided against it because he didn't want to live in the same school district as his students. My best friend Lindsay is a music teacher at a private school somewhat nearby that draws students from this area, and when we talked about joining a gym together (one near where I live and where she works), she decided against it because she didn't want to run into her students at the gym. When my family goes to this one place for ice cream, my mom never gets out of the car - also because a lot of students and their families go there!

I, personally, don't run into many of my patient's families in daily life. The only time I ever really see them outside the unit is in the hospital cafeteria or in some hallway in the hospital. When that happens, I'm often on my cell phone if I've just left work and am calling home or something, so I simply wave and say hello and then keep going. Doesn't really bother me.

The only times I've seen my psychiatrist out of the office is when he used to work at the same hospital I do. I'd be out for lunch with friends, and we'd pass him on the sidewalk. Sometimes I'm not even sure he saw me, but he never said hi or anything, and neither did I. I would have - and I understand that psychs as a rule don't usually say hello to their patients when other people are around, but I always felt maybe he didn't want to see me outside of the office or something. A couple times when he worked at the other hospital in Philly, I passed him as I was walking back from the convenient store to my car, and we would say a brief hello or a brief nod, but that was usually only like 15 minutes after my appt ended. Now that he works in a clinic in NJ, 45 min to an hour away from me, I have no doubt that I will not run into him in public any more!

Dinah - that is an interesting bind, though. Difficult to determine how you might feel about coach and as you write, how you might speak to him, when you think of him as family member of your patient or just as random coach guy. I like hearing about these types of issues. :)

Take care!
Carrie :)