In this Q&A, the medical director of Rush’s geriatric psychiatry program tells us about herself and the honor, which she’ll receive in March in Honolulu.
Tell us about your background.
I’m originally from Detroit. I received my undergraduate degree in communications from Michigan State University, East Lansing Michigan. I worked at a public radio station then a Detroit television station. I transitioned to communications work at a hospital on the east side of Detroit and created a community education program for a young hospice program. I recognized that I enjoyed working in a health care environment, and that I wanted to take on a different role in health care. I eventually realized that I wanted to be a psychiatrist.
I was 10 years out of school by then and not certain that I could do it. I started premed classes on my 30th birthday, all while working a day job. Medical school was both an exciting and terrifying challenge.
I am a first-year child and adolescent psychiatry fellow here at Rush. My first rotation here was on the inpatient unit where we work with children from ages 7 to 18 going through acute impairments, including depression, suicidal thoughts or attempts and behavioral disturbances. They spend an average of four to seven days in the inpatient unit, where they work on improving their coping skills, way of life, self-esteem and assertiveness, along with many other aspects of day-to-day living.
My role in working with them is to get to know them on an emotional/therapeutic level and then help guide treatment that is most conducive to them. These kids come from all walks of life, and connecting to them can be a difficult task. I would consistently find that many would use an artistic outlet of one form or another to help them cope during stressful times. This would include anything from music, drawing, photography and reading to painting.
Self-esteem is one of the most discussed issues among parents and infant and child developmentalists. Psychologically, self-esteem can become quite complicated, but let’s stick to the basics and see if we can shed some light on it.
Self-esteem can be defined as a confidence and satisfaction in oneself. How can this be achieved? How does one’s own internal sense of self-esteem relate to external assessment of those around us?
In general, of course, the real key to self-esteem is loving and encouraging your child — life itself will provide enough problems — loving and valuing the child for himself or herself, who he or she is. This is often easier said than done, especially if the parents have not been loved and valued. Paying attention to your child, listening to her, being interested in her and how she feels and what she thinks — all these help solidify the child’s internal self-cohesion and give her the sense she is of value — i.e., self-esteem.
I was saddened to read a recent article in the New York Times featuring a psychiatrist who used to like doing psychotherapy. He now restricts his practice to writing prescriptions. He no longer talks to his patients about their emotional problems; he refers them to nonmedical therapists.
Many people are familiar with the dramatic developments in the field of psychopharmacology beginning in the 1950s. Less well known are the equally exciting developments in the field of psychotherapy during these years, particularly cognitive therapy and other cognitive-behavioral therapies.
Cognitive therapy and other cognitive-behavioral therapies are active and structured forms of psychotherapy based on the idea that the way an individual views the world has a major influence on emotions and behavior. A variety of cognitive and behavioral strategies are employed to reduce unpleasant feelings and change maladaptive behavior.
These treatments are more efficient and often more effective than traditional psychotherapy in the treatment of depression, anxiety disorders and other psychiatric illnesses. Cognitive therapy and other cognitive-behavioral therapies can be used alone or with medication, and treatment often takes months rather than years. These treatments are based on scientific research. Continue reading →