Docsplainin' -- it's what I do

Docsplainin'--it's what I do.
After all, I'm a doc, aren't I?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Doctor, get over thyself

Andreas Kisser - Hubris I & II
Andreas Kisser - Hubris I & II (Photo credit: Pombinho)
One of the things I find least attractive about organized psychology is the zealousness with which we guard (and ceaselessly seek to expand) our turf. We forget, when we try to lock other well-trained and supervised people out of psychological assessment, for example, or when we set out to gain prescription privileges for ourselves, that we started out as a profession studying trivial crap like the eye-blink reflex. And for about the first 60 years psychiatry, which is where the power was, thought that's all we were good for. We were treated as little better than psychometricians and had to fight like hell to be allowed to diagnose mental illness, never mind treat it. (If World War II hadn't come along with a screaming shortage of providers bobbing in its wake, we probably wouldn't be there yet.) We're far too quick to at best condescend to, and at worst insult the abilities and character of, non-doctoral providers when we discover them doing something that we believe falls within our sole purview. We've lost our humility, traded it in somewhere along the line for hubris. And if you don't know where that will get you, go read some Greek tragedy. Or some Shakespeare. And then we'll talk.

I am disgusted by the alacrity with which we cry, "But that's bad for psychology!" and spring forth to organize and initiate yet another turf war when the real issue at hand is (or should be) the quality of services to clients. What does it say about our collective character when our first concern is our referral base and not the people--who depend on all mental health providers, not just us? Our greatest concern ought to be for them, but no. Our first instinct is to check our wallets. Our grasping nature probably does far more damage to the profession of psychology than any hard-working, well-trained, underpaid masters'-level practitioner could possibly inflict by--gasp!--performing a psychological assessment.

And while we're on that subject, I find it sublimely ironic that while a masters-level clinician who wishes to test must fill out a two-page questionnaire demonstrating specific proficiency before s/he's allowed to purchase many instruments, any psychologist with a doctorate and a license, no matter how poorly (or not at all) trained s/he may be in psychological assessment, can buy any test in the catalog, no questions asked. Of course it's unethical for one to administer and interpret tests one has never studied and practiced with, but not a few do. It's that hubris thing--too many psychologists think because they have the 'terminal degree' that they're qualified to do pretty much anything they take a fancy to. But that's another rant for another day.

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