Mixing psychiatry and neurology: This doctor treats patients other doctors have given up on

| | July 2, 2018
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Dr. Alice Flaherty. Image credit: Rick Friedman for The New York Times
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[Neuroscientist Alice Flaherty] has been toying with the boundaries of illness itself. She likes seeing patients other doctors have given up on. Many have faced questions about whether they’re really as sick as they say. For all of them, getting the proper treatment — pills or infusions or electrical currents — depends on a kind of collaboration with Flaherty, a workshop in which motivations are re-examined, stories reshaped, turns of phrase redefined.

There was the woman who came in with an anxiety-related tremor but insisted that, no, these shakes weren’t psychological. “You have to convince them, yes, you really are sick, I understand that, or they’ll never trust you,” Flaherty said. “And they are really sick, they’re disabled, totally.” Then, with a careful tweaking of language, she was able to prescribe the Valium that the patient had been refusing from other doctors, and the tremor faded.

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To some, she might sound like a shrink tucked away inside a movement disorder clinic, and that isn’t entirely wrong. Historically, psychiatrists and neurologists often kept to their own floors, as if the feeling-thinking brain and the physical brain were two different organs. Flaherty was merging both long before it became a trend.

Above all — whether the symptoms are psychological, physical, or some combination of the two — she wants them to feel heard.

Read full, original post: It’s not ‘all in your head’: When other doctors give up on patients, a boundary-breaking neurologist treats them

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