Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Giving “The Gift of Therapy” and “In Treatment” To Psychiatrists! Yay!

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on April 9, 2015


The trainees, those committed to a career in Psychiatry , at UCLA, have organized themselves to learn more about psychotherapy. Yes, I am clicking my heels with joy and excitement. Finally! The pendulum of biological psychiatry dominating my field is pushing back to regain the mind, the human kindness involved in healing. At least, that is my hope, as evidenced by this year’s intern class, the class that graduated medical school in 2014, coming together to ask the UCLA Psychiatry Faculty for a Spring retreat in which they have protected time (no on-call duties) in which to get to know each other, and to be introduced to the concepts of psychotherapy. First, in preparation we will read this book, “The Gift of Therapy” and discuss what it meant to them. This book focuses on how psychotherapy provides the unique experience of listening, a gift that few people ever receive in their lives. Learning to listen and valuing listening are essential components that contribute to emotional growth.  Then, we will watch together a few episodes of  “In Treatment” and we will discuss how this fictional psychotherapy show illustrates the complexities of listening. Together, we will free associate to the book and to the episodes in ways in which we will come to appreciate that thinking about thinking is a stimulating and curative endeavor. I am glad I am around to see this change. The hope is that as very young psychiatrists they will “grow up” appreciating the value of the personal narrative, and in so doing, they will resist being pill mills. There is a smile on my face, with a certain guardedness at the same time. This is a positive baby step and we will see if it grows into a new world, which, of course, would be the old world of psychiatry.

4 Responses to “Giving “The Gift of Therapy” and “In Treatment” To Psychiatrists! Yay!”

  1. Eleanor said

    Shirah what absolutely wonderful news! Good for the UCLA intern class and am so glad you will be involved in this. Please do keep your blog readers informed on the progress of this new (I know…baby steps) movement! I have watched some episodes of “in Treatment” in the past (interesting learning experience) but have never heard of the book “The Gift of Therapy”. With that said the Kindle version of the book now sits ready to explore on my iPad. I have always considered access to really good psychodynamically oriented treatment to be a gift of sorts….It’s certainly not cheap, nor has it been covered to any degree by insurance at least in the past in my experience. It’s also time consuming as opposed to brief symptom oriented treatment….It is, indeed a gift however, as the book title implies.

  2. Shelly Tannenbaum said

    Are the interns doing rotations in psychiatry? Do all the interns rotating into psychiatry go through your course? Interesting how it’s the interns and not the residents who asked for it. Perhaps their minds are still elastic and not jaded by the long hours and work load. Why do I feel that the residents don’t listen and medicate more? Is this the new norm in the US?

    • These are psychiatry interns. So, they graduated med school in 2014 and they comitted themselves to a career in psychiatry. This will be a retreat in which all of the interns are expected to come. Coverage for their rotations has been allocated to other people, so they have no reason not to come, unless the are on vacation. Yes, I agree these are “young pups” and as such, more amenable and more hopeful about the prospect of drilling down into the deeper meaning of symptoms. You feel that psychiatry residents medicate more, are pill-mills, because reimbursement pushes the institutions to generate revenue by writing prescriptions and not by listening. Yes, the is the new norm in the US, although, by new, I would say for the last 15-20 years. Thanks.

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