Sunday, April 22, 2012


Yesterday I was on a speaker on a panel at The Annapolis Book Festival.  There were a few glitches--one of the panelists had a family emergency and couldn't make it (--oh, I still have to meet Pete Earley, I was looking very forward to this after all the wonderful things I've heard about him), and the A-V equipment didn't fly and part of my talk begins with a slide show set to music called The Public Face of Psychiatry, that I like to use as a set up for why psychiatry needs blogs and books and an image re-do.  It all went fine despite the missing panelist and AV issues--I showed the slideshow on my computer and it was worked fine. 

The most notable part of the event, however, was that my Co-panelist, Joani Gammill, author of The Interventionist,  came with her emotional support chihuahua, Lucy.  What a sweet little dog!  She also came with her beautiful, charming, and very mature 13-year-old daughter, but the daughter remained in the audience, in charge of the never-used dog carrier.  Lucy, however, was front and center on the panelist's table.   And to think, I actually ironed my shirt that morning.  If I knew there would be a dog to focus all the attention, I would gone wrinkled.  

Joani  and Lucy spoke first while four men worked on the projector on my behalf.  After I spoke, I asked for questions.  The first question, influenced I'm sure by Lucy-- was from someone who wanted to know how I used animals in my practice of psychiatry.  Oh my.  I really can't compete with a chihuahua.  I thought of my dogs, Kobe, the incredibly high strung Pomeranian who appeared in my back yard two-and-half years ago, and Max, the wonderful mutt-from-the-pound who hated closed spaces and died of cancer last year.  I told what few pet stories I had: I'd brought Max to my office once on a weekend.  He panicked in the elevator (we left by the stairs).  He couldn't even sleep in a bedroom with us, he scratched at closed doors.  No therapy for Max.  And Kobe doesn't sit still and would be an amazing distraction.  Kobe, sad to say, is all about Kobe.  And once upon a time I was medical director of a clinic.  One day I looked outside my first floor office window and there was a man on the sidewalk outside the clinic with a 10-foot-long albino python wrapped around his neck.  He wasn't a patient, and I asked him A) what does it eat and B) to leave.  Snakes and community psychiatry clinics don't mix.  A patient once brought a dog to a session with another psychiatrist in her handbag (I don't recall this being a problem).  And another patient brought his pet ferret in.  I asked him not to because there were children in the waiting room petting the ferret and I didn't think it was fair for some poor mom to have to explain to the pediatrician that her kid got bitten by a ferret while she was waiting to see her psychiatrist.  The member of the audience suggested I get a fish tank-- not a bad idea, my dentist has an amazing one--but I struggle to keep the plants alive, arrange separate coverage for them while I'm away, and....well, I'll think about the fish idea.

Okay, so Joani has been to rehab compliments of Dr. Phil, and has continued to work with him in her own role as an interventionist.  You can see why she'd be good, and I put a Dr. Phil clip with her up above.  The Shrink Rappers have an funny fondness for Dr. Phil after  ClinkShrink and Roy tricked me into  believing we were talking to him on the phone during a podcast.   And while, I'm plugging other people, I hope all is well with our missing panelist, Pete Earley, and do check out his wonderful book Crazy: A Father's Search Through America's Mental Health Madness.   

It was a very fun morning.  They gave me a nice gift bag for speaking and told me to take two for my co-authors, so Clink and Roy, I have gifts for you (note to Clink, includes T-shirt and coffee...)  We even sold a few books and I got to be on a panel with a chihuahua.

And if you've never listened to the Dr. Phil prank that my co-bloggers played on me, you can find it here.  Hard to believe I'm advertising how gullible I am.


Anonymous said...

A patient once brought a dog to a session with another psychiatrist in her handbag


Dinah said...

Just to clarify:
The dog was in the handbag, not the psychiatrist. I only knew about it because the psychiatrist told me.

Sarebear said...

It sounds like a great time, techno glitches aside.

My 2nd psychiatrist sometimes had one or both of his large dogs, a breed of Russian something or others (looked like taller, exotic greyhound related?) in to his ofice. I thought it as neat (except all the dog hair around WASN't neat, and tripping on the scattered dog toys wasn't eithe), bt wondered about patients wth allergies.

He told me his wife, a nurse, had just gotten one of the dogs certified as a therapeutic animal of some sort, she could take it upto the children's hospital and comfort those who needed (but what about allergies? I assume for clealiness issues they bathe em good beforehand . . .) Do they keep the immuno-suppressed patients in a different wing? I'm guessing yes, cause immuno-suppressed patients would need well the most strict controls I guess. I dunno.

Completely unrelated I still have an Ella Fitzgerald music CD this shrink lent me. Wierd boundaries, there. Plus it's awkward I still have it lol.

Sunny CA said...

I'd like to see commentary and a discussion about this article in today's NY Times:

Sunny CA said...

I am not trying to be picky about your writing because I find I write sentences like this myself, but I laughed out loud when I read this sentence:

"A patient once brought a dog to a session with another psychiatrist in her handbag (I don't recall this being a problem)."

I think it may have been a problem for the psychiatrist who was in the handbag :))

Anyway, thanks for your report which brought the event to life for those of us not there. I am glad it was enjoyable.

Dinah said...

SunnyCA: I went to blog about that article, and instead I ended up writing about yesterday's book festival and the doggy.

So much to write, so little time.....
It's on the list.

Sunny CA said...

The personal things ought to come first, and then articles in NYTimes second. You prioritized well.

Regarding the NYTimes article, I found it especially interesting because I was in psychotherapy for about 6 years. For a chunk of that time I wasn't really making progress, but it helped to have emotional support for the changes I was making in my life and have someone with my best interests at heart to help me analyze what was going on. When my psychiatrist was too forceful in his opinion I ended up making a decision I still regret, so there is a risk in the approach outlined by the author...being forceful in giving advice.

PS: the "prove you are not a robot" characters are getting harder and harder. Two rejected tries so far on this attempt to post, and it too many tries earlier.

Sarebear said...

It's so neat that Joani is helping other people.

Re: the psychiatrist in the handbag, I envision someone duringa session saying, "Wait a moment; I need to consult my purse for a second opinion . . . ."


SteveBMD said...

I used to bring my dog Poppy with me when I worked at a busy community mental health clinic. In a total of 20+ days with Poppy (seeing, on average, 15 patients per day), NO patients ever refused to see him. In fact, patients would open up so much more to me. They always seemed to be in better spirits when he was in the office with us.

If only I could prescribe Poppy instead of Prozac or Zyprexa.

Oh, and by the way, how was the panel???

Alana said...

Perhaps the patient had one psychiatrist in her handbag, and another one up her sleeve?