Thursday, December 20, 2012

Searching For a Therapist Will Leave You Needing a Therapist

Finding a therapist or psychiatrist is a miserable process. Both have specialization criteria that disqualifies them as a good fit. To find candidates you can search Google, but Google doesn't have a sane place to get the information from so it can't give helpful answers: Garbage In, Garbage Out.

Google will invariably refer you to the Psychology Today referral site. Their search/selection criteria is spotty at best. It's a magazine after all and I can't help but be skeptical about their listings.

We've never had a Primary Care Provider that could refer us directly, nor have he had a health care network that would give referrals. They direct us to our insurance provider's "Find a Doctor" site.

I've tried to use this functionality through Blue Shield and Blue Cross respectively. I don't know their commercial relationship but their "Find a Doctor" search has been the same. You find a general field for a doctor and they give you a list with name, gender, address, and phone number. The "Accepting new patients" filter seems to have no bearing on whether or not the doctor is Accepting new patients. You can click on one doctor's listing to get details, but that loses your place in the search and you have to start over.

I finally gave up trying to get recommendations. I started going down the list and just calling. Of course they never answer the phone; they're probably in session and can't. So you're left to leave messages and hope they call you back. I called about 25 offices and left in the neighborhood of a dozen messages. Several I was able to skip leaving a message because their voicemail indicated that they weren't accepting new patients. I got 3 quick responses noting they weren't accepting new patients, and I appreciate knowing right away I can cross them off the list. One I eliminated because the voicemail greeting indicated that they worked in pediatrics.

Overall, I most appreciated those 2-3 offices I called where a human being was able to quickly tell me that they weren't a good candidate. Second were those whose voicemail let me know they weren't a good candidate. Third were those that returned my call quickly; one was via text message, which was great.

I'm struggling to understand why this is so difficult. The insurance provider seems like the best place to get this information together. They can't seem eliminate ineligible providers. I'm wondering if it's because they don't actually know about their providers (which would seem pretty reprehensible) or they just don't know how to organize this data. As it stands, their service is little more than a private phonebook. Hell, yellow pages listings would probably have been more helpful.

Friday, December 14, 2012

How do you treat an injured Soul?

(Expanded on from a Google+ post)

This is becoming trite. As the story unfolds in Connecticut we're going to learn that the shooter showed signs of mental illness that went unaddressed.

The reason they went unaddressed is because culturally we have two views on mental health: you are normal or you are crazy. If you seem to fall in between your choices are to try to seem normal, or risk being looked on with shame and lose all your credibility. Worse still, it's a reasonable fear that you might risk being hospitalized against your will if you're determined to be a threat to yourself or others.

Socially, we consider consulting your doctor about physical health problems a sign of good judgement. It's not uncommon for friends and family to come to the aid of someone with a sprained ankle with useful advice. "Put ice on it to reduce the swelling." "Wrap it with a bandage for support." "Take it easy for a while and let me help you." Most importantly, "If it doesn't improve, we'll go to the doctor."

In contrast, consulting a behavioral doctor carries a risk as mentioned above. If we admit we're "crazy", we risk embarrassing our loved ones, being considered incompetent by our peers, and harming what's already a trouble ego.

We don't accept mental and emotional problems as "normal" and thus we don't have normal modes of support. We don't know how to help each other with these problems the way we do a sprained ankle. They go untreated, often until the problem has grown significant that even the appearance of normal function has fallen out of reach.

The tragedy we've seen in Connecticut is clearly the culmination of mental illness, yet we all suffer smaller, more subtle problems. At best our problems won't grow more severe; they'll merely keep us from success and happiness.

We need to:

  • change our views about mental and emotional health;
  • accept that mental and emotional health problems are normal;
  • acknowledge that we all suffer from mental and emotional health problems that we cannot always bear alone;
  • learn about common mental health issues the way we've learned about common injuries;
  • accept that we may need to accept the help of strangers;
  • look upon people that need help with compassion.
Stop looking away. Face your own problems and the problems of your loved ones. With different attitudes we can not only avert the rare tragedy, we can all be more happy, successful, and empowered.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Baked Pasta with Meatballs

  • 2qt Pyrex baking dish (mine's square)
  • .5 lb short pasta (I used small Rotini this time)
  • 1.5 jar sauce (I used Newman's Own Marinara)
  • .5 - 1lb frozen italian style hor's d'oureversr meatballs. I used safeway brand.
  • 8oz Shredded Mozzarella-Provolone
  • .5-1 cup grated parmesean
  • 8oz Ricotta
  • Spices
  • Gusto

  • Boil water for pasta
  • Put frozen meatballs in sauce pan. Add a cup or so of marinara. Cover, simmer on low. Stir occasionally
  • Get a big bowl. Dump in your ricotta, parmesean, 1/2 of your shredded cheese
  • Add spices to the bowl. I did garlic powder, some oregano powder, onion power, ms dash, and pepper like I meant it. 
  • Put about 2 cups of sauce in a microwave safe dish, make hot. Ensure you cover it because it will splatter                                                                         

  • Dump the warm sauce into your mixing bowl and mix it up. The result will be this grainy pink goop.                                                                                 
  • Line the bottom of your baking dish with some sauce.                                                                                                                               
  • Spread about 1/2 of remaining shredded cheese over sauce in baking dish                                                                                                             
  • Preheat your oven to 400                                                                                                                                                            
  • Once the pasta's done boiling, drain, drop it in your mixing bowl and mix with the pink goop.                                                                                       
  • Dump the sauce pan with sauce and meatballs into the pasta and pink goop. Mix that up too.                                                                                          
  • Carefully put all that stuff in the baking dish. It will probably barely fit                                                                                                        
  • If you have sauce left, pour it over top                                                                                                                                            
  • Spread remaining shredded cheese over this. You gotta have lots of cheese on top.                                                                                                   
  • Assuming your oven is ready, stick a baking sheet or some tin foil on a lower shelf, then the baking dish on the middle shelf. The baking sheet is there in case it drips.          
  • Don't play Borderlands 2. You'll forget about this awesome stuff in the oven. Instead, check out tmbo for 25 minutes.                                                               
  • When the time's up, the cheese should be a congealed skin of awesome on top with some crusty brown spots. This is how you know it's done and why you need lots of cheese on top.    
  • Take it out of the oven and let it sit for 5 minutes or so. It's still cooking inside.                                                                                              
  • Don't forget to turn off the oven.

Enjoy. This is a delicious but heavy meal. Better break out the red wine.