Sunday, November 04, 2007

Turn That Damn Thing Off!

Good morning. It's Sunday. Have you set your clocks back? I'm on my second cup of coffee with The New York Times, Max is up and barking at the neighbors, Clink has already emailed me about her chocolate consumption, Roy is working diligently on the podcast.

So on today's front page there is an article about the popularity of illegal cell phone jammers. Press a button and everyone in certain radius loses their calls

Gary, a therapist in Ohio who also declined to give his last name, citing the illegality of the devices, says jamming is necessary to do his job effectively. He runs group therapy sessions for sufferers of eating disorders. In one session, a woman’s confession was rudely interrupted.

“She was talking about sexual abuse,” Gary said. “Someone’s cellphone went off and they carried on a conversation.”

“There’s no etiquette,” he said. “It’s a pandemic.”

Gary said phone calls interrupted therapy all the time, despite a no-phones policy. Four months ago, he paid $200 for a jammer, which he placed surreptitiously on one side of the room. He tells patients that if they are expecting an emergency call, they should give out the front desk’s number. He has not told them about the jammer.

I'll be thankful I haven't had to resort to this. I don't run groups, and most people seem to get that they're paying for my time. People-- mostly parents-- do take calls during session, but they tend to keep them very brief. "I can't talk right now, I'll call you back in a few minutes." And I have to admit that sometimes I forget to turn my own phone off-- it rings and I silence it immediately-- I've never actually answered a call during someone's session. Once in a great while, someone has an extended cell phone conversation during their psychotherapy session....always a little weird for me to be trapped listening to the one-sided nature of a private communication, but hey. I'll be glad it's a rare event and extend my sympathy to Gary and his eating disorder group. Perhaps they should just do a group turnoff at the beginning of the sessions?


Anonymous said...

Any thoughts about a shrink who accepts personal cell phone calls (not emergencies)during sessions, sends the patient out of the room to take the calls and never fails to dismiss the patient on time or to charge for the full hour?? I have my thoughts but they are not fit for print. Anyway, I think the group therapist should maintain his no cell policy but still tell people about the jammer. Did you read about the cops tracking the mother and kid down at a concert because she couldn't hear her cell ringing to alert her that the hospital had a transplant for her kid? All turned out well.

Rach said...

Ahhh... the all important question of phone policies...

I have my thoughts. my shrink has 2 lines - one for voicemail, one for emergencies... the emergency phone line rings at least once a session. Annoys the hell out of me. Therefore I dont turn my own cell off (seeing that I see the shrink during business hours and I'm on call... i inevitably also get called for work or paged or blackberried...).
2 way street. I just accept it and see the shrink for meds/ acute issues. I've resorted to seeing another guy for therapy - someone who turns his phone off.

I may need to start seeing a psychiatrist who practises psychiatry 30,000 feet in the air if that's what it takes to get an un-interrupted session.

Rach said...

2 PS'es - 1) I occasionally think about your post about the time you dropped your phone in the washing machine... LOL. Then I think about wanting to throw my blackberry in the lake/ other natural/manmade body of water.

2) Wrote a blog post based on your blog post... Your words inspire me as usual.

Keep Breathing said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aqua said...

I applaud the pdoc/therapist with the jammer. Allowing your phone to ring during a group session is simply rude and dismissive of other people's time and value.

My experience has been that it is always the same people who allow their phones to go off in a group,(or when I teach), in a classroom.

I use the word "allow" on purpose because I suspect these people consciously leave their phones on; whether it is for attention, or to boost their egos and their self-importance I am not sure. Otherwise, why would it always be the same people?

If my pdoc answered his phone during my session I would tell him I found it interruptive. If he continued to do it I would tell him it was unacceptable to me. At some point if he kept doing it I would leave therapy with him and find someone else.

I think addressing the ringing and/or answering of the phone in therapy would be a great lesson in speaking up to what I perceive to be an authority figure, a great way to practice the belief that my time is as valuable as his.

I am fortunate. My pdoc's phone has rung twice in the 6 years I've seen him. Each time he has apologized and turned it off. That is acceptable.

ps. I am anti-cell phone. I hate them. I am a bit phone phobic. I never answer the phone at home and I find it next to impossible to phone other people. Why would I answer one when I'm out? I recognize that some people may need them, but I hate the constant din everywhere you go caused by everyone talking about nothing all day long. I would much rather see someone in person.

NeoNurseChic said...

My psychiatrist works in a behavioral health hospital where he is an attending psychiatrist for general and geriatric psychiatry. When we have our sessions, he can get paged overhead, receive pages (his pager vibrates, and I hear it every time), and gets called on his phone from time to time as well, although usually he turns the ringer off. Before he worked at this place, I don't think he ever answered a single page while I was in a session with him.

Now we get interrupted frequently - once it was like 3 or 4 times in one session. And then there's the issue of the fact that group sessions are constantly going on and the office staff is often talking and laughing very loudly in the hallway so that I can't even hear myself think.

If I hadn't been going to him before, I wouldn't go to him anymore because these things annoy me THAT much. When he gets off the phone, he doesn't say anything, but I feel like the moment is completely broken - either what I had to say now seems so stupid to me that I'm not getting back into it again, or else my ADD is so bad that I can't even remember what it was we were talking about.

I realize it isn't his fault. I do wish that there was some way we could get people to be quiet outside his door while we are in session... He's started putting sticky notes on the door saying "In Session" so that people don't randomly open the door to use the office, because that was happening a lot, too.

As I write this, I feel like crying suddenly. Talk about your un-ideal situation.

But I still find him to be incredibly helpful, and I wouldn't go to anyone else because I trust him, and after over 3 years of working together, I feel like we have accomplished too much together for me to even consider going to somebody else.

I am very thankful for the days when we have uninterrupted sessions.....

Take care,

P.S. Had to repost cuz I messed up and posted this under the wrong nickname....This kinda thing is going to get me into trouble! haha...

Gerbil said...

Gah. I hate stupid cell phone behavior. Cell phones give us the illusion that others are always reachable--and there are some times when answering the phone is just completely inappropriate.

I've had a few clients (I see mainly teens and young adults) take cell phone calls or send and receive text messages during individual sessions. However, they only get to do this once... because I tell them immediately thereafter that this sort of thing is permitted in the waiting room only. Then I add that they get one hour a week with me, and it's their choice to attend to non-emergent calls instead; and that if there is some ongoing crisis about which they are expecting a call, they should notify me at the start of the session. This has worked fantastically well.

I once led a group of (unruly) high school girls who, of course, were texting all through group one week. The next week I instituted the Cell Phone Bucket and gave them the choice: either turn off and stow your phone in your bookbag during group, or turn off and and deposit it in the Cell Phone Bucket as you enter the group room.

Not surprisingly, no one opted for the bucket. But of course someone asked, "What if it's an emergency?" I said that if it were really that much of an emergency, either they wouldn't be in school that day to begin with... or the school office would be sending for them. The only problem I had with cell phone use during group after that date was when one of the girls came to group high--but that's another story altogether.

Anonymous said...

I think the surreptitious phone-jammer tactic is a little too underhanded. It shows a lack of trust and a condescension toward his patients. Just tell them there's a no-phone policy (and explain why) and make them turn the phones off at the beginning of the group (while he watches.) Or even make them leave their phones at the front desk. And if anyone takes a call during group, it's grounds for getting kicked out of the group.

I have had psychiatrists get called/paged during a session. Usually they ignore it and apologize profusely. Sometimes they explain they really have to take it, but they're brief, and again, they apologize profusely. I don't have any issue with that.

FooFoo5 said...

I look forward to Dinah reporting from the Sunday Times!

On topic, build your own. Don't ask me how I know.

Midwife with a Knife said...

foofoo: That's awesome! I really don't understand the terrible cell phone etiquette I see. Why you would be on your cell phone when I have a speculum in your vagina, I have no idea. Isn't that what voice mail's for?

Also, I reject the idea that I'm always reachable. I feel like I'm the boss of my phone, it's not the boss of me. If I'm busy, I just don't answer!

Rach said...


Yes, I agree with the concept of being the boss of your phone... There is this teensy-tinsy bit of me, though, that wants to be important - and it can reach that state of importance by having the phone on all the time.

I'll go back to therapy now.

Alison Cummins said...

The Spirite Lounge is a vegan/organic restaurant in my town (Montreal). They have lots of rules.
- There is only one dish on the menu. You can choose whether you want large, medium or small, and you can tell them about any food allergies, but they dictate what you will eat.
- Once you have chosen the size plate you want you must eat everything on it. If you don't clean your plate you pay a $1 fine and you can't have dessert.
- The $1 fine is matched by the restaurant and donated to a food bank.
- You get to choose your dessert, but if you don't finish it they throw you out and you can never come back.
- You must check your cellphones at the coat-check. If your cell phone rings while you are at your table they throw you out and you can never come back.

And yes, I have left the restaurant to see a group of bewildered young women thrown out on the sidewalk because of a cell phone, wondering what on earth just happened to them.

Gerbil said...

MWWAK, OMG. That's worse than talking on your cell phone while using the bathroom! I hope they aren't giving their friends the play-by-play...

Bardiac said...

I don't actually have a cell phone (Shakespeare hasn't had an emergency for almost 400 years! And I drowned one, and didn't miss it while it was trying to get repaired for six weeks, so what the heck!), but when a phone goes off in class, I tease my students about making them change their ringtone to "It's a Small World." Funny how quickly they turn off their phones. :) One of these days, I'm going to get a whole class to sing it to the phonee!

NeoNurseChic said...

"Shakespeare hasn't had an emergency for almost 400 years!" That's a good one... haha Now I'm remembering my trip to England and going in Nash House - what an incredible thing that was. Speaking of England, I had no cell phone the entire time I was there, and I did just fine. Helen (friend I was staying with) had 2 cell phones, and the one time we were significantly separated as I was running down to the ASDA for a new camera memory chip, she lent me her phone so that I could reach her if an emergency rose. One of her cell phones is a public number, and the other is private. Good call!

My cell... It might as well be my home phone. I screen all my calls so good luck getting ahold of me. I'll answer for certain people (parents and boyfriend are about the only peeps I pick up the phone for), but everyone else can leave a message. I'm not reachable 24/7 - not even close. And I don't believe anyone else is reachable 24/7 either...except parents and boyfriend, that is! Well, Jason recently broke his phone and has been without one for the past 2 weeks and is fine with it. Though finally last night he ordered a new one online. I'm relieved because I don't like his being without the phone!

Take care,
Carrie :)

Dreaming again said...

Carrie!! I didn't know you were still around! For some reason I thought your blog had gone defunct!

Good to see you!

I turn my cell phone off. Unless it is a possibility that I could get an emergency call. Then I tell my therapist that I am leaving it on. I keep thinking about the group, but then, I refuse to go to groups, so I guess that wouldn't be an issue for me.

My husbands health is frail, and in an emergency, he'd only call a number he was familiar with, having to look up a number, would in fact, be a problem and might prevent him from calling.

My doctor's and therapists are all understanding of this, and I don't take advantage of it. I also have his ring tone specific and silence any other rings that come through.

Unknown said...

i agree with sorrel.
having a phone-jammer solves the immediate problem, but it's sad that he can't seem to set clear enough boundaries in the group to begin with to prevent such things from happening on a regular basis.

Sarebear said...

My therapist leaves his on, but it usually only rings about once every other appt. He has only answered it about 3-4 times a year. There WAS one appt. where he spent probably 15-20 mins on the phone over 4 different phone calls, but they were all from his kid the day after their very old cat had died.

It's a fine line to walk, and he was not long on the third call, and very brief on the fourth, but given the situation I didn't mind. Especially since a child's judgement isn't what an adult's is, as well as grieving on top of that.

He apologized, and briefly explained, as well as went into the time he uses between apts to finish writing his thoughts and get ready for the next appt, etc, and then some, over the hour mark.

There was another time he was on the phone when I got there, but he was unusually dressed up, as he had to leave after our appt to be at court ahead of time to testify on psych matters in some case or other. The call was regarding that, so, again, that's one of those gotta take it things.

I've been satisfied with how he's handled it, except for the fact that he just has, on his recording, in case of emergency, after hours, go to an E.R. There's not really any procedure I've been told for if there's an emergency. But you've blogged that before.

The time a customer walked in and handed one of my hubby's co-workers a phone, still damp, to have checked out/replaced fixed whatever, and when asked what happened, he said it fell in to the toilet.

Eww. Especially since they were prob DOING something IN there at the time, infinity ewwwww.

Spit happens . . . MWWAK made me laugh! Geez louise . .

Anonymous said...

Alison--Does it matter if the cell phone rings in English or in French? Do they really allow the word The in the name of the resto? I'm driving over now to take a picture.