This is a common complication in our work. At this time in Western healthcare it is common that clinicians will brush aside things that they don’t think are important to the task, as they see it. Sometimes this is completely appropriate, for example acute ‘rescue’ type interventions.
Often clinicians have a very divided view of health, and as long as the tests are negative and your organ systems are working well then there is little more to be done. If the test are positive or the systems are not working well then the answer has to be drugs or some technological intervention. The ‘story’ is not important.
But many clinicians have a feel for the ‘story’ of the patient but don’t have the confidence, skills, or permission to bring this into the consultation.
Therefore there is no simple answer to the question ‘What can I do when my doctor or clinician is not interested in my story?’ But here are some things to think about.
- If you are a confident assertive person you might gently but firmly say to your clinician that you want them to consider you more as a whole person. If you ask them whether your illness could have anything to do with a trauma, or life event, and they disparage that idea, you might indicate that you are disappointed in such a narrow focus. Many clinicians will start to listen if you confront their non-listening. This may not be helpful but you might feel better about it! But most people don’t have that kind of energy for educating their clinicians. I do think that people working with a psychotherapist should confront the psychotherapist if the latter is not allowing the body to be considered in the therapy room.
- We are commonly faced with both having our body aspect addressed by a doctor and needing to turn to another professional to address the story. We need to be practical. I ‘coach’ patients to trust the doctor to address the diagnosis and physical treatments to make sure that all the bodily aspects are properly covered. And I suggest they see a therapist for the story aspects. I coach them to insist that the therapist allows the story and the bodily illness to be connected. In other words, when the professionals are not doing it, the patient or client, the person, must hold their whole person aspect themselves. It can be really hard at times.
- Sometimes it is in your best interest to seek out clinicians who are willing to accommodate a whole person approach, even if they lack the skills to do more than that. People do not have to be perfect to be helpful.
- Of course, many people who are suffering a chronic debilitating illness are struggling and vulnerable. It can be disappointing and frustrating to not be able to find a clinician who will help you to find your way through the physical diagnostic elements, the story aspects, and all the other factors that may be keeping you unwell. At this point in time it is usually a matter of stitching the resources together. The resources you need probably lie in this list:
- a thorough doctor, physician, physiotherapist, surgeon etc who gives you confidence that the medical side is being properly covered;
- a good therapist, psychologist, counsellor with a deep understanding of persons, who has a good sense of the oneness of mind and body, and is willing to see story and disease connections;
- good social supports–avoiding those who press you into simplistic solutions e.g. it is all due to food additives, or gluten, or pesticides, or genes. Of course these can be relevant at times but in my view many people are actually kept unwell when everything is put down to such simple or single factors.