by Tom Rue
As a mental health counselor, I see my clients as whole people. Emotions, spiritual condition, behavior, learning style, and physical health are components of a person and can not be separated.
For this reason, I might ask for consent to release of information to obtain records from other treating healthcare providers, schools, or agencies. If you do not keep copies of your own medical records already, I recommend you consider using a website like one of those listed below (many of which are free).
If you are taking medications prescribed by a psychiatrist as part of your treatment for a mental health condition, this would be important for me to know. It can also be useful to your doctor, to give you the best care, to get occasional progress reports. This is one example.
I rarely draw a distinction between recovery from addiction and the state of being mentally healthy. "Mental health" equals recovery, when the subject is someone who is addicted to drugs. They are one and the same.
Here is another example. If you seemed clinically depressed, I might ask (among other things) when was the last time your thyroid was checked. Hypothyroidism can cause or exacerbate symptoms of depression. Similarly, an over-active thyroid can cause symptoms resembling anxiety or hypomania.
If routine blood work has not been done recently, I might ask about your physician about doing so, while continuing to see you to work on changing thought patterns, life circumstances, or other factors contributing to the cycle of depression.
Here's another... If you were being treated medically for chronic pain and had become dependent on pills, I would ask to communicate with all of your care care providers and support you in discussing with them how to best work together with you for your quality of life.
Cognitive learning style is another part of who you are. Some people learn more easily when they can see or handle what is being discussed. Some respond better to auditory or written instruction.
I believe in interacting with patients, as well as their other care providers, with respect and openness. Their input is valuable to assessing and treating your overall mental and social health.
Relationships you form with others are also a part of who you are, and of your mental and emotional health status. They can not be ignored. This includes your whole family, friends, life partners, and to a certain extent everyone you know or have ever cared for. They don't all need to be involved in counseling with you. My office is not that big! But it is still important to acknowledge the part they play, or have played, in your life story.
I do not promote religion in my work with clients, but I so support whatever practices and beliefs the client has found brings spiritual fulfillment and sense of connectedness. This is true if you are Christian, Buddhist, Wiccan, Jewish, or Druid. Religion is a vehicle that works for some find fills a spiritual void in their lives.
Some people find spiritual meaning by meditating on their relationship to the earth as a while, or simply by celebrating the cycles of nature. Whatever your persuasion, I encourage you to draw closer to the Deity of your understanding.
These factors are essential and indivisible parts of being human. Each one is unique. The combination of these elements makes us so.
- Benefits of Open Communication between Primary Care Physicians and Behavioral Health Providers Beacon Health Strategies (Hudson Health Plan), 2/2011.
- eBrief on Coordination of Care Connecticut General Health Insurance Co. (CIGNA), 7/2011.