The Minds of Psychiatrists Research Project
Al Siebert, PhD, Project Director
We're gathering data about what's in the the minds of psychiatrists. Listed below are interview questions to ask psychiatrists and clinical instructors. Students enrolled in graduate school or a professional program may wish to make the interviews a team project supervised by an instructor.
Make an interview appointment saying "I'm conducting interviews of mental health professionals for a research project. I would like to ask you a few questions about being a mental health professional and about mental patients. The interview will take about 30 minutes."
Take a print out of questions you want to ask, and a note pad for writing the person's answers. Record the interview using a tape-recorder, if possible.
An alternate approach is to look or opportunities during classes, seminars, or clinic meetings to ask one or two questions of special interest to you.
- Why did you choose to go into this field? What is your motivation for doing this work?
- What is most satisfying about the work and what is most difficult for you?
- Were you required to go into psychotherapy during your training program? If so, what was that like for you?
- Advertisements for psychiatry say that mental illnesses are diseases like any other. If I do any training or volunteer work in a mental hospital, do I need to get immunization shots to protect me against contracting a mental illness?
- If mental illnesses are diseases like any other, how does someone become immune to a mental illness? Is there any protection against developing a mental illness? Has anyone working with mental patients ever caught a mental illness from a patient?
- Our society doesn't force people with noncontagious illnesses to submit to medical treatment. What's wrong with being schizophrenic or having a mental illness? Why are people declared to have a mental illness forced to submit to treatments they say they do not want?
- When you were in your training program were you required to convince mental patients to accept that they are mentally ill? If so, what was that like for you? Did most of your patients agree they were mentally ill?
- When people disagree that they are mentally ill, why are efforts made to persuade them that they are? Do you know of any published evidence validating why it is important to get mental patients to agree that they are mentally ill?
- When someone resists efforts to force them to believe they are mentally ill, do you see that as a sign of emotional strength or do you see it as a sign of lack of insight and an indicator that they are extremely mentally ill?
- Why do professional books and journal articles never include information about whether the patients in the treatment research agreed or disagreed that they were mentally ill?
- Did you ever have any doubts about what your instructors and supervisors were telling you? If so, did you voice your doubts? If you did, what was their reaction?
- When you see symptoms of mental illness in people, do you believe you are an objective observer?
- If people can be mentally ill and not know it, how do you know you are not mentally ill?
- What is your opinion of the assertion by Dr. Thomas Szasz that the idea of mental illness is a myth? How do you explain why Dr. Thomas Szasz is one of the most well known psychiatrists in the world, but is ignored by American psychiatry?
- Do you believe it is an acceptable practice for psychiatrists to threaten patients who do not cooperate with being committed to a mental hospital?
- Some mental patients report that they've been lied to by mental health professionals. Have you ever done that? What do you feel is the justification for lying to people believed to be mentally ill?
- Why is there no published research about the practice of lying to people to trick them into revealing thoughts and feelings that can lead to them being involuntarily committed to a mental hospital?
- Do you agree that mental health professionals have no selfish reasons for keeping someone in a mental hospital and that their actions are entirely for the person's own good?
- Do patients in mental hospitals feel as well-cared for as patients in other medical wards?
- What is your feeling about forcing mental patients to take medications they do not want?
- How do you know that the data being collected from brain scans is due to some disease process and is not from environmental stress?
- What are your feelings and opinions about the antipsychiatry movement and people who call themselves "psychiatric survivors"?
- How do you explain why psychiatry is the only medical specialty that must arrange for police protection against street demonstrations by ex-mental patients at its national conventions?
- Have you ever been physically assaulted by a mental patient? Do you know any psychiatrists and psychologists who have been assaulted? Does that possibility concern you?
- It is reported that psychiatrists and clinical psychologists have a suicide rate much higher than physicians and the general population. Is that accurate, and if so how do you explain that?
- Would you feel comfortable spending several weeks as a patient on a locked ward in a mental hospital with patients who know you are a doctor?
- In your training did you have any classes on how to recognize exceptional levels of mental health? When people go to mental health clinics for treatment are they taught how to develop excellent mental health?
- What tests and examinations do you administer to establish that someone has excellent mental health?
- Psychiatrist Karl Menninger said that some mental patients go beyond recovery to become "weller than well." Do you know of any cases like that? Do you believe that people can fully recover from mental illnesses and become stronger from having gone through the experience?
As you conduct your interview, allow yourself to ask more questions that spontaneously occur to you. You might have one person ask question while the other takes notes. Observe the body language of the person you interview. Notice their posture, body movements, facial expressions, tone of voice, and feelings while they talk. Is the interviewed professional relaxed and able to talk with you in a spontaneous, honest way or do they talk at you in a controlled, cautious, guarded, unemotional way?
Here is a portion of a report conducted by a sophomore college student who interviewed a psychiatrist. She said:
"He seated me in a chair near his desk. The furniture was arranged such that he, once seated, had to swivel his chair around 90 degrees to look at the person seated in the visitor's chair. He sat facing me directly during the interview. He did not change the position of his legs, body, or left arm during my 30 minute interview. He did move his right forearm and hand several times, but his upper arm remained still. He showed no facial movement with the exception of a hint of upward pull at the right corner of his mouth several times. I suspect that years of psychiatric training and practice have taught him to do nothing to be distracting to the patient. But since I wasn't a patient I found his lack of normal non-verbal cues to be very distracting. His voice was pleasant and projected a lot of meaning so it wasn't an uncomfortable situation-just different."
E-mail a report of your interview findings to:
Psychiatrist Interview Project.
Include comments about your feelings and impressions, as well as questions you have and what you learned.
View our related article: "The Psychiatric Tautology: Our Collective Nightmare"
email: Al Siebert, PhD
P.O. Box 535
Portland, OR 97207
Disclaimer: Material found on the Successful Schizophrenia website is for your information only. We are not able dispense specific advice for your situation. If you are under a doctor's care, you should talk with him or her about your mental health goals and if they are not on the same page as you, ask for a referral to a doctor or counselor who is. It may mean interviewing several. If you are on your own, you may wish to contact your local county mental health department to ask for local resources. Our site exists to show people that there are all varieties of mental states and assessments of those states; that sometimes 'mental health' is in the eye of the beholder; and that the mental health profession needs to continue to open itself up to the new paradigm ... progress is being made!
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