Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Professional Update

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on November 14, 2019

My professional life is absorbed with educating clinicians about mental health, mental suffering, mental illness and various modalities of treatment for those who suffer. In addition, and most of my time, is spent face to face with patients, struggling with them as often as they want to, with difficult issues of guilt, shame, inhibition, as well as the disappointments one has with oneself and with loved ones. The purpose of this therapeutic pursuit is to create deeper authenticity and thereby increasing vitality and flexibility as life throws curve balls, time and time again. Through these various activities my professional life is woven together with the strong commitment to bring “old school” models of care, in-depth psychotherapy, combined with “new school” models which include psychopharmacology and neuromodulation technology. Listening to patients continues to be a lost art; one which I actively try to bring back to both primary care clinicians and to mental health clinicians. I sharpen my own listening tools on a daily basis, as my patients present me with new material which requires me to listen deeply and hear new themes as each day presents new therapeutic challenges. I could not teach if I did not treat patients and feel the front-line, and I could not treat patients if I did not continue to stimulate myself with creative ways to teach. In other words, teaching keeps my therapy skills alive, and therapy keeps my teaching skills alive. I am grateful for both opportunities.

2 Responses to “Professional Update”

  1. Shelly Tannenbaum said

    I love it, Shirah! It reminds me of when you used to Medical Clown! What was the story behind the photo? I think that listening by psychiatrists is a lost art as HMO’s only prescribe meds and hand over talk-therapy to social workers or outside contractors like psychologists and others. This only makes it in the “not covered by my insurance” list and therefore not obtainable by some patients in some HMO’s. We leave it to the professionals like you to change the mindset of the insurance companies that talk therapy is as important as the medications to affect a cure.

    • It was Halloween and I was giving a presentation in Chicago…so I dressed up in my jester costume and it brought back memories of my clowning days…..It was nice to bring a smile on people’s faces….the audacity of the costume during a continuing medical education seminar made the day so fun for me…..As for listening and reimbursement…well….third party payers do not want to pay for listening and quite frankly, I do not see how that will change…I had a professor once called it the “rent a friend” business and I always took deep offense to that, but sadly, listening is not valued in our medical care system. Listening is certainly a healing art. Who is qualified to listen and how those are trained to listen is a matter of much dispute. I do my small part by holding the baton and reminding people that medications can be helpful, but that is not to the exclusion of a deep relationship with the practitioner who works hard to understand the dynamics of the situation, keeping in mind both present and past stressors. I do this in my practice. I teach this to psychiatrists, psychologists and nurse practitioners. I leave the lobbying to insurance companies to others, as that would not be my strong suit. Thanks, as always for chiming in.

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