Tag Archives: healthcare

Healthy Doesn’t Equal Superhuman

I started to touch on this point last week in my post about honoring vulnerability. And we’ve had some great discussions about the issue of vulnerability and health over the past few weeks in #MedPsych chat (check out the transcripts here).  And there have been comments made during this entire year of the #MedPsych chat that have led to this topic.

Being healthy (in body and mind) doesn’t equal being superhuman.

I think that if I said that to the average person on the street, they would agree with me.  But, the truth is, we kind of expect superhuman–from ourselves, from our patients/clients, and from our healthcare providers.

  • We expect that we will never fall ill.
  • We expect that we will perfectly manage our chronic health conditions.
  • We expect that we will always communicate our needs well.
  • We expect that we will intuitively choose healthy habits.
  • We expect that we will never need to restart our healthy choices.
  • We expect that clients will keep appointments, even when their lives are in chaos.
  • We expect that patients can make behavior changes, even without education and support.
  • We expect that clients and patients can communicate their needs on our timeline.
  • We expect that our healthcare providers will be completely up to date on current research.
  • We expect that our healthcare providers will start all appointments on time.
  • We expect that our healthcare providers will take as much time with us as we need.
  • We expect that our healthcare providers will be able to connect empathetically with us as fellow human beings.
  • We expect that our healthcare providers will have good enough boundaries not to burden us with their struggles.

And that’s just a tiny sampling of the expectations that we have–for ourselves and for our healthcare providers–when it comes to health.  Laid out like that, it becomes pretty easy to understand why we often feel blamed and judged in healthcare, on all sides of the treatment equation.

It seems clear to me that all of these threads: countering stigma, honoring vulnerability, and acknowledging human-ness are essential components of building a healthcare system that truly honors and integrates support for whole people (body, brain, relationships).

I think one area to start changing our expectations is in our training systems.  We need systems where students who set healthy boundaries are respected, not judged.  We need training systems where mistakes are treated as opportunities to learn, not moments of public shaming (or a rush to risk management).  We need training that give us permission and tools to consider our work as part of an integrated system, not isolated silos of expertise.

And sometimes, we just need to pause, and honor the fact that being human is a process of learning and relearning, of connecting, of struggling–a process, not a destination.


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Behavior Change–Easier to Say Than to Do

In recent #InnoPsy chats, we have talked a lot about the fact that many healthy choices (from regular movement to taking insulin) are actually behaviors.  So, helping people make healthy choices is, at the root of things, helping people choose or change behaviors that support their health.

The truth of the matter is, behavior change is complicated.

It sounds simple on paper.  Do this more. Do this less.

In fact, it sounds so simple on paper (or on the screen, or in the exam room) that we expect people to be able to hear about a beneficial behavior change and immediately begin implementing that change.

But that expectation ignores the reality of human behavior.  Behavior is so much more than a simple set of choices.  Instead, behavior is a reflection of your experiences and patterns throughout a lifetime.  Behavior has triggers and rewards (some of which don’t make great sense).  Behavior has emotional components.  Shaping behavior is challenging.  Just ask anyone who has ever tried to get a two-year old to behave in a way that the child didn’t choose.

We all have an inner two-year old.  That part of ourselves that is unwilling to make a change.  That part of ourselves that might be willing to throw a tantrum to avoid having to engage with change–even healthy change.

What we know as psychologists is this.  Behavior change is hard AND behavior change is possible.  Honoring and respecting the challenge is part of how we navigate through it.

In fact, during tonight’s chat, we are going to invite our community to take part in some real-time behavior change.  We hope that you’ll join us.  We hope you’ll feel free to share your responses.  And we hope you’ll come along with us as we practice walking our own talk.

–Ann & Susan

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Why #InnoPsy?

BootsI have mentioned a time or two (or ten) that it is very important for me to walk my talk. I can’t talk to my clients about healthy choices if I am not making healthy choices. I can’t encourage my clients to do the tough emotional work if I am not doing it myself. That authenticity is part of what makes me a good psychologist. It’s a quality that I try to protect and nurture.

Keep that whole walking my talk thing in mind. It’s important for the story.

Earlier this month, I found myself talking with a group of psychologists about how our voice feels absent in the larger healthcare leadership discussion. This has been a theme for me ever since the Stanford Medicine X conference. I wrote here that:

The mental health field has so much to bring to the table in this effort to change and improve health care. I heard many attendees talking about the value of patient stories–mental health is centered on the story. I heard speakers talk about the critical lesson of asking if they “got it right” when summarizing patient experience. This person-centered reflection has been part of introductory therapy training for decades. In addition, when we aren’t talking about the impact of mental health factors on patient education and health decision-making, we’re missing a huge part of the picture.

I’ve been talking with folks since September about how to get more psychologists to the table. We are doctoral level professionals–we’ve had extensive training not just in patient-centered care, but in brain-based understanding of human behavior.

And so, in this discussion, someone (Dr. Susan Giurleo, to be specific) said, “Why don’t we have a tweetchat where we are discussing these issues?” And that led to even more questions. Why aren’t psychologists being more assertive about our potential to add to the discussion? Where is the public education that says, “There are folks who could help with this!”? And finally, why are we waiting for someone else to invite us to the table? Why not create our own table?

And there’s where the whole walking your talk thing came in.

And the #InnoPsy chat was born. Because, at the end of the day, a significant part of the health crisis in the United States today is a mental health crisis. And psychologists are the folks best trained to lead the discussion about that crisis. Public leadership isn’t a familiar role for many of us. I know that I, at least, am most comfortable confronting the mental health crisis in my office–one client at a time. But if I am going to walk my talk, then it is time to show up. Psychologists have a great deal to contribute to the larger conversation. And I’m ready to do my part. I’m showing up.

And I hope that you will show up with me. The #InnoPsy tweetchat had an opening discussion today, about healthy coping in the face of the Newtown shooting anniversary. But we’ll be chatting weekly on Tuesday nights at 9 pm ET/6 pm PT on the #InnoPsy tag. I hope I see you there. We can walk our talk together.

Cross-posted on http://www.drannbeckerschutte.com

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