The Riggs Blog
How My Work Makes a Difference - Part 2
Austen Riggs held a blog competition among staff members where we asked them to write about the topic: “How My Work Makes a Difference.” This is the second blog in the series written by Elizabeth Weinberg, MD, Staff Psychiatrist.
When I was a medical student many years ago, I realized that people came to treatment because of medical illness, but they suffered from emotional distress. Loneliness, heartbreak and unacknowledged anger were making my patients sick. This led me to believe that the most important thing I could do to help was to listen to them. I do not always listen as well as I should, but I do my best. Sometimes, at the right moment, finding someone willing to listen can make all the difference. I believe sometimes it can save a life.
As a psychiatrist and psychotherapist, I have learned a wide range of techniques to address mental illness. Since I want to assist my patients’ recovery, I use whatever approach might help. I am trained in prescribing medication, and I work hard to do this effectively. I am trained in psychoanalysis, and I value and use those principles in my work. I also try to assess whether one of the many programs that focus on other therapeutic techniques, such as DBT, ACT or CBT would be more beneficial. I try to make sure I stay current and trained in the interventions I do offer, but I know that I don't have to be good at everything; other skilled professionals have mastered what I can’t do.
What I care about most is the immediacy of the moment between myself and my patient. I honestly believe that getting to know another person, their fantasies, fears and suffering, ultimately is even more important than the diagnosis and treatment of illness. I don't always succeed in doing this, but I do try, and when a patient wants to be known as I am willing to work to know them, the results can be wonderful. In my mind, it is fundamental to our nature as human beings to make meaning of our experience, to want to share that meaning, be heard, seen and understood by at least one other person who really cares. When this goes well, patterns of development that have been arrested or disrupted can re-establish themselves, like clearing a path overgrown by weeds and brambles. This is what I believe in, what I try to do, and how I make a difference in my work.