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JLeslie's avatar

Is the empathy of a therapist hollow for you?

Asked by JLeslie (60534points) July 12th, 2012

I am extremely upset today regarding my ongoing saga with my hospital bill. I won’t bore you with the long details, but the short version is I am disputing a charge for a test that was done that I never agreed to, and did not know it was done until after the fact. The woman who is supposed to follow up to the complaint is taking forever, and I don’t believe for a second she has done one thing for the matter. She just keeps trying to placate me, telling me she is working on it.

Today I lost it. I called to speak to her boss, who supposedly was not there, and I spoke to someone else in the office. Well, I was very unstable. In fact, when she first got on the phone I welled up, it was everything I could do to speak through my tears I am so emotional and angry about the matter. I told her it is to the point that it goes one of two ways, either I let it go and let them keep my money and try to walk away because I am so distraught, or get an immediate answer. I don’t feel like I am going to let it go so if I don’t get an answer I will have to write the BBB and the state and these people who are dragging their feet can run around getting the answer put together as an offical response. I told her either the doctor agrees he added that extra test, and takes the charge off my bill, or he writes up his justification for the test and I will have it reviewed by another neurologist.

Anyway, my husband asked if I wanted to speak to someone on the phone since I was so upset. It’s a service his company offers for mental health care, and as much as I feel like repeating the whole thing over, I know basically what they are going to say and it will feel empty to me. It will make me feel worse I think. Just another medical professional placating me.

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38 Answers

digitalimpression's avatar

I think it will always feel like they are just placating you if that’s what you already think they are going to do.

Sometimes people can provide a perspective on your thought process that is helpful. Of course, it depends on the person. Not all therapists are good. Some are excellent. Sometimes just having someone to vent to is good.

Coloma's avatar

Well, I think that to allow yourself to become so overwrought is not good for your well being, obviously. If you have taken as much action as is possible there is really nothing else you can do except continue with follow up calls and be patient.
What price peace?
If you’re not talking thousands of dollars maybe this is an exercise in letting go and surrendering the need to control the outcome.

I’m not saying your stress and frustration is not valid, it is, but…there comes a time when you cross the line and cause your own suffering by refusing to accept the situation in the moment.
I had some crappy repairs done last year and struggled with having amends made, finally it was just not worth the $300 and I dropped the issues.
If you allow this situation to consume you in a negative manner you are hurting yourself even more than your pocketbook.
I’d vote for taking a break from pursuing this matter for a few weeks.

You can set a date with the powers that be and let them know you expect some sort of resolution by a certain date, tell them what the consequences will be at that time for failure to rectify the problem and then, it’s up to you how much grief and drama you want to invest after that.
Sometimes we just have to cut our losses and we “win” by not compromising our mental and emotional health, which is a huge “win” in itself.

You are fighting with reality, and it is an exercise in futility.
It is what it is and no amount of emotional acrobats will change this fact.
You’re just making yourself sick and it may be your highest choice to let go, at least for the time being.

JLeslie's avatar

@digitalimpression I have had some very good therapists in the past, but for whatever reason I don’t think it will be helpful this time. I guess as I get older, part of it is I know the answer already I think.

JLeslie's avatar

@Coloma Yes I know. As I said I am at a point where I save my sanity and give up, or drive it like a bull to torture them as much as possible for at least some satisfaction. It isn’t the money any more, it is the blatant disrespect, the incompetence regarding their lack of follow through, and the overall disgust I have for the healthcare system. Not to mention feeling run over by a truck, a lack of control over my body, at their mercy, I am filled with so much…I just don’t know how to put it into words…it is a combination and culmination of so much crap regarding my experience with doctors, and being dismissed by not only doctors, but people who just don’t get it, who are so unaware, sucked in, or oblivious they don’t understand what is happening.

I told my husband every time I try to resolve it, speak to them, I get extremely upset. It is not emotionally worth it, I should probably let it go. He said, “you won’t be able to compketely let it go.” My response was, “but I can accept it as an unfair thing that happened and just know I have to live with it and stop being in battle mode.”

I like your idea of giving the, a deadline, but I kind of did let it go for a few weeks there waiting for a response from them, and then I did it again a second time. Now I gave them until the end of today. Actually, this person told me she would get back to me with information by the end of today before I gave a deadline, I just kept saying, “I can’t take it anymore, they must make my issue a priority this has gone on too long.”

YARNLADY's avatar

Nearly all of us have universal empathy for the well-being of others. Therapists are professionally trained to be able to actually help. It you don’t feel your therapist is being honest with you, maybe you need to try someone else.

bkcunningham's avatar

You really seem seriously upset, @JLeslie. Wow. I’m sorry you are having so much turmoil over this accident. Are you documenting everything?

JLeslie's avatar

Augustlan sent me this article about copays beng more expensive for patients than self pay, something I have talked about several times on fluther, and I don’t think once a jelly has said, “yeah, I know, that happened to me.” Not even here in our well informed collective. This is not related to what I am dealing with currently, except that it all swirls around in my head, all adds up, all contributes to my inability to handle medical situations well. People usually tell me how I am lucky to have insurance, they have a negotiated rate, etc etc. It is just so exhausting to know, know I had tests that delivered a wallop of radiation and have an idiot nurse say to me, “non medical people don’t understand, it’s barely anything.” At least people who work in radiology have never said something dismissive to me like that. To have doctors order unnecessary tests and not inform me it is being done. To tell me if I had refused a test they probably would have thrown me out of the ER. That they don’t have to tell me what CT’s they are running because it is not invasive and not a medication. It affects ever cell in my body. They delivered radiation into my body that actually never leaves. At least most medications are gone after the liver and kidney clears the toxins. How is it different?

I know I am just ranting now, but it is all piling up. I’m not handeling well, I know it.

JLeslie's avatar

@bkcunningham Yes very. I am a mess at this point. Maybe I just need to be a mess today.

Bill1939's avatar

@JLeslie, I have been on both sides of a mental health professional’s desk, and think I understand how frustrating it can be, both for the client and the provider. It is wrong to be charged for a test that you did not agree to. While the physician or psychologist who ordered the test may have had reasons for not getting your approval before having it administered, they should have explained it to you afterwards. Had they done so you might not feel as angry as you do. But they didn’t.

You should not have had to go through an intermediary to get this issue resolved. However, it is not unusual for a hospital to create positions that serve as buffers between clients and professionals (though I think such practices stink). The procedure they must follow to do their job is complex (often unnecessarily), requiring (perhaps intentionally) a long time to reach a resolution. So I am not surprised that this third person may be having problems obtaining the facts on who ordered the test, what the test was for, who administered the test, and so forth.

I would take your husband’s suggestion. For whatever reason, you are emotionally overwhelmed and could find a compassionate ear a great help. While you think you know how someone will regard your situation, this judgement is not fair to them. Most professionals are in this field because they really care about people. Please give starting again a chance.

flutherother's avatar

When it comes to doctors and the medical profession generally I think we have to believe that they are on our side and strive for our good health. It doesn’t make sense to believe otherwise even when the relationship is influenced by money. A doctor won’t carry out a test unless he thinks it is necessary. If he omitted to tell you I would just remind him that out of respect for his patient he should keep you fully informed of everything he does.

marinelife's avatar

Normally, with therapists that I am working with their empathy does not feel hollow. However, I have never experienced a phone situation with a therapist unknown to me, I don’t know how that would feel.

It sounds as though you are generally upset with the whole medical profession right now, and you are lumping this unknown therapist in with them. I am not sure how you “know” what they will say. But if you don’t believe that you might feel comforted, then don’t do it.

JLeslie's avatar

@Bill1939 The tests were because I was in a bad accident on a golf cart. I do not currently see a psychiatrist nor do I have any mental issues. Well, unless you count being hysterical today.

augustlan's avatar

I’m sorry you’re having such a hard time, girlie. Wish I could give you a hug. :(

A therapist I don’t know, over the phone, probably wouldn’t help me, either. But when I was going to my therapist, one I’ve established a relationship with and trust, her empathy always seemed real to me. Better yet, she was very practical, and helped me actually do something about my stuff.

Fly's avatar

I’m so sorry that you have to go through all of this. I can’t imagine what it must feel like. Please update us when you hear from the hospital, and I hope that you finally get some answers.

To answer your question, I have found therapy thus far to be entirely shallow. Granted, I’ve only been to two therapists and didn’t like either, but my biggest problem was more so that I could see right through it all and know that it’s just willing deception of the mind than that I didn’t find the right therapist. I know a great deal of the methods used/recommended by therapists and they honestly just don’t work for me. Just talking it through with someone helps me when I’m anxious/upset, but I would rather just talk to someone that I know and am comfortable with. Unfortunately, the rest of my problems can’t just be talked through or medicated, so it would seem that I’m just stuck with those for now.

I suspect that you just need to let out all of the built-up tension from this whole ordeal. Allow yourself to vent, to cry, to be angry for a while. If you get upset with yourself for being upset, what good will that do? Just remember that you have a damn good reason for being upset! Hopefully after tonight, you won’t have that reason any more.

Bill1939's avatar

@JLeslie, I’m sorry that I did not understand that the test was for a physical problem. I read too much into the last paragraph of your question. My wife recently had a problem somewhat similar to yours. She had a six-month checkup with her GP and expected an order for a bone density test to be performed at our local hospital. When she spoke with one of the secretaries she was told she needed to come in for a blood test before the hospital could perform the procedure. My wife questioned this, but the secretary was insistent. When my wife had the blood draw, she was told to call the hospital and schedule the surgery. My wife asked to talk with her doctor, but was put off. Upon calling the hospital, they said they had not received the order. She called the doctor’s office and was told the order had been faxed. It turns out the secretary had faxed an order for fusion therapy, that the doctor forgot to order the bone density test, and that the secretary assumed from what my wife had said the doctor had intended to order fusion therapy so she did it herself. Of course, my wife was furious. We wrote a letter with bullet points and mailed it to the doctor, marked personal. He called two days later very apologetic, promising that nothing like this would happen again; he agreed that his secretary had exceeded her authority.

phaedryx's avatar

@JLeslie yeah, I sometimes struggle with the idea that their empathy is paid service and it could even be seen as a function of the payment.

JLeslie's avatar

@Bill1939 No apology necessary, but thank you. Once before, a few years ago I had an incident where I had thought I should send a letter person to person to a doctor, because his staff made errors that really were unbelievable. I didn’t think of it this time. What had happened was I had felt during my initial appointment with him that he completely understood my situation, and he has a very good reputation for success in his specialty. Instead of doing it, instead of insisting to speak to him or sending a ltter directly to him, I gave up. I lost about $1,500, had driven to his office three times, 8 hours round trip each time, and just could not handle the incompetence, and lack of understanding. The end of that story is I continue to have no children, because I just can’t put myself through it mentally, I can’t be abused by these people all the time. It feels like that, it feels abusive. It is not about whether the doctor got me pregnant or not, it has nothing to do with that. I started to do what @Coloma suggested, take a few weeks off from it, and then it became months and years. That is one medical story, there are others.

I would bet the person I am dealing with thinks I am most upset about the money, I am most upset about how I am being treated.

At this point part of the problem is me, I realize that. I have sort of a PTSD with these people that is very easily triggered if they do one thing that is mean, incompetent, or stupid. Then I am in a tailspin. I realize they don’t care once I am agitated, they just sit back at that point, hang up the phone, turn to their coworker and say, “that woman is crazy, she gets so upset, someone should give her a sedative.” Or, they are calling me a bitch. My sister says I should be a bitch, I should threaten them and harrass them until I get what they should be providing. She is a nurse.

I hate it, I much prefer to be nice and just have everyone do their job.

phaedryx's avatar

@JLeslie well, it looks like you get some free, genuine empathy from the collective ^

:D

DaphneT's avatar

@JLeslie I rather agree with what you are talking about, the medical community spends much time on suggesting that anyone without a medical degree is completely incompetent and should not involve themselves in any medical discussion. These members of the medical community then take that attitude home and suggest that they are the only ones who can do anything at home, in the family, in the community at-large. Too bad they can’t seem to take an interest in the effect of the latest round of health care debates.

Many members of the medical community have given no thought to the growth and trends in their cultural bubble, they don’t see how much education the non-medical community has absorbed, and how anyone with a college degree is capable of problem solving and systems analysis and how much information is pulled from the medical community, at their request, and pushed into the general population under the auspices of making a more informed patient. That would be you.

Call a lawyer who specializes in medical-business discrepancies. There is a host of advocates for people using Medicare for just your type of scenario, you may not be on Medicare, but the abuse is just as damaging.

Call a lawyer.

Mariah's avatar

Aw honey, this is horrible. I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this. I fucking hate that that is how insurance companies work right now. Just deny everything and hope that their sick or injured clients won’t have the energy or the mental fortitude to wage the war that is required to actually get the money they’re owed. For the sake of their damn profits. It’s disgusting.

As for therapists, no, in my experience the empathy has not been the least bit hollow. I have seen two therapists, both women, one at college first and then one when I came home and dealt with my surgeries. The one at college remembered me and my situation fully when I finally came back to school after being gone for a year and a half. The one at home, my sister sees still, and apparently she asks about me all the time and seems genuinely interested in how I’m doing. People who go into that field really care. I think if it feels hollow, that’s a sign that you should look for a different therapist, one you jive with better.

JLeslie's avatar

@Mariah I actually paid everything a couple weeks ago thinking I would let it all go. Then I got worked up again about this MRI I never agreed to and pissed off no one was getting back to me. I know once they have their money they stop giving a shit, but I want my GD explanation! I want money back because that is the only way to get justice and it is thievery in my opinion that they just run tests and assume insurance is paying. i mean afterall insurance is not present at the time of the examanation or conversation, what do they know? They really can’t monitor what should be performed or not, except in very general terms. It is up to the patient to know if an extra test was thrown in.

bkcunningham's avatar

@JLeslie, did your insurance not cover the cost of the MRI?

JLeslie's avatar

@bkcunningham It covers part of it. Even if they give me back my part, I want them to give my insurance company back their part. If the test was wrong it’s wrong. That’s the problem with insurance, patients don’t care if tests are done ten times or were unnecessary if their insurance pays, and doctors don’t care if the insurance is going to pay. I can’t tell you how many times when I ask how much something costs I get told, “your insurance covers it.” Check my link up at the top that auggie gave me. It is a sinister set up we have going on.

Whether it is my money or someone else’s I care. I care about whether it is right, done with integrity, hurts other people, I am not only concerned with my own pocket and my own experience with healthcare. It is about everybody to me. One of the women who helped me at regarding my extreme upset over the CT scans said to me, “the problem is you know too much.” She was very nice, answered all my questions and made some suggesstion that were extremely helpful. That also means most people don’t know much about anything. I am not just on a crusade for myself, but also for the people who don’t know any better. Maybe if the hospital has a little fear that possibly the patient on the table has a brain in their head, they won’t just do tests without informing the patient.

bkcunningham's avatar

I’m trying to understand the situation, @JLeslie. Did you have an MRI performed that you feel wasn’t necessary? Please, if my questions upset or frustrate you, just tell me. I don’t want to add to your misery.

JLeslie's avatar

@bkcunningham Yes. I had agreed to an MRA, which is also done in an MRI machine. They did both and charged me for both. In retrospect I believe the MRA was competely unnecessary also, but I had agreed to it, so I can live with that.

bkcunningham's avatar

Is an MRA a type of MRI that is specific for the vascular system?

But your insurance said no to the payment of the MRI?

I have been an (unofficial) advocate for people for years in dealing with physicians, hospitals and insurance companies. I feel your frustrations. It can feel like you are on Candid Camera or on an episode of the Twilight Zone all the while thinking that all someone needs is a smidgen of commonsense to straighten out the mess with hospitals, doctors and health insurance issues.

Bill1939's avatar

@JLeslie, I have a hard time dealing with things that confuse me, which is happening more and more lately. I seem to be balanced on a narrow edge with anger on one side and tears on the other. Mental illness exists on my mother’s side of the family. Her father committed suicide while in a mental hospital (mother was 7 at the time), her daughter (my sister, who was 4 years younger than I am) was diagnosed as having paranoid schizophrenia and hung herself at age 42. Mother was likely bipolar, but by age 71 had sister’s illness (she died from heart failure—a blessing in disguise). Given my family’s history, I am concerned about the possibility that I share this congenital weakness. Unfortunately, the local psychiatrist is a pill pusher who insists that I continue to try more antidepressants (I’ve been on combinations of more than a half dozen) though none have helped and most made my depression more severe. When I suggested that ADHD might fit the childhood behaviors I’d exhibited and could account for the emotional lability then and now, he was dismissive. I had him slowly take me off all medications and then quit seeing him. Though I know that I could benefit from the services of a professional, I live in a rural area and so have limited access to another psychiatrist. Do you think you might benefit from a mental health professional?

JLeslie's avatar

@Bill1939 No. Not in this case. I have been in therapy before and twice in my life it was extremely helpful. I have gone other times for just a few sessions during crisis.

I am not bipolar or schizophrenic or any of those more significant things that usually need some sort of treatment. Sometimes I slide into a little depression, but it is never lasting, not in the last 25 years anyway, and usually is really just upset due to something very specific. Even now I would not say I am depressed, just very upset.

@bkcunningham my insurance pays, but I pay a percentage. I have a $2500 deductable every year and then 20/80. I pay something for everything I have done. But, it is more than the money. This is about a doctor slipping something in that was not discussed nor agreed to. I am tired of doctors not treating pts as partners in their own health care when half the time it is completely up to us to take control of our care because doctors are not acting. Not referring us to a specialist who might be able to help us, not taking 10 minutes to look up a drug, not taking time to do some research for one of their patients who has an unusual set of symptoms. I went more out of my way selling clothing in Bloomingdale’s than some of these doctors will go for their patients. Some doctors are great, but so many are very dissappointing. Especially with how they treat their patients. I am truly surprised every time I like a doctor and their staff.

Did you see the Q a couple years ago by Jeruba asking how doctors refer pts? Most of the answers were check the pts insurance and see who is on their plan. We were both in shock and dissappointed. Every other person in the world recommends someone because they have some knowledge of the person’s and their work, or actually says that we have never utilized their services as a sort of a disclosure. So, the doctor is basically going to the yellow pages like we could.

JLeslie's avatar

Here is Jeruba’s Q on referrals if you have any interest.

JLeslie's avatar

Well, the update is I woke up this morning with a tingle that I am praying to God will not become full blown shingles. This is why I often just let “them” win. It shortens my life and causes me too much grief. I’ll know in a few days. I actually called my doctor for the meds which I usually don’t take, but I have a vacation coming up and this would half ruin it. Sometimes this happens and it doesn’t get bad, kind of retreats. If I actually get an outbreak it is about 3 weeks of discomfort minimum. Plus, I would not feel right going into a pool with an outbreak so that would suck for my vacation, I was hoping to swim. Totally sucks, it’s been years since I have had a shingles episode.

augustlan's avatar

Oh, man. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that you don’t get a full-on attack. Shingles sucks.

JLeslie's avatar

@augustlan This is the first time I have ever taken a megadose of Valtrex when I first get the “feelng.” I get it on my backside, so I had my husband look and the skin continues to be the same since I woke up yesterday, feels the same too. Such an odd virus what it does to the skin. It looks like nothing much, just a little abnormal, except I know that is my shingles spot. Ugh. I hope that medicine works. I am so drugged up from it, I hate it.

Do you ever start to get one and then it calms back down? I never was sure if that was happening to me in the past or not. I thought maybe it was some post neuralgia maybe, how could I know for sure? It usually happened within months of an episode, I would think I was getting another one and then it would calm down again. I haven’t had any problems at all in so many years.

bkcunningham's avatar

I read Jeruba’s Q and it was very interesting, @JLeslie. I hope you start feeling better soon.

JLeslie's avatar

@bkcunningham Thanks. Did you find Jeruba’s Q surprising?

bkcunningham's avatar

Well, not really. I know that is the MO for many referrals. I’m not saying I approve. I’m just not surprised.

augustlan's avatar

@JLeslie I only ever had shingles once so far, knock on wood, in my thirties. I had no clue what the hell was happening to me at first, but was lucky enough to have a friend who is a nurse see the rash and send me running to the doc. I took the meds and was spared the very intense pain that some people get, but I still had tenderness and the rash for a long time. I live in fear of getting it again.

JLeslie's avatar

@augustlan The first time I had it a doctor diagnosed it incorrectly. Another idiot. He said it was an infection and gave me antibiotics for a skin infection, antibiotics for a bacterial infection. Months later I described it to a different doctor and he said, “sounds like shingles, if you get it again in the same spot you know it is.” I did get it again, and lived through the episode without treatment. The third time days into it I was at the GYN for something unrelated, I had the appointment planned for weeks, and asked him to look at it since I was there, saying I think it’s shingles. He started with, “I doubt you have shingles,” and then when I turned around and showed him he right away said, “oh, wow that is pretty bad.” Gee thanks. He cultured it and confirmed it was shingles,

I really don’t understand how the first doctor didn’t know. But, I don’t understand a lot of things doctors don’t know. You might remember one of my first questions here where one of my friends had warts, a very badly case on his feet and cuticles of his fingernails and a doctor gave him Lotriman, which is a yeast control medicine. Totally incompetent. He went to a second doctor on my insistance and had it treated correctly. Very different types of infections, and even if the doc is clueless he can send it to the lab.

augustlan's avatar

I think part of the problem is that shingles is typically associated with people much older than we were when we got them. It’s not terribly common for younger people to get them. Probably docs who specialize in geriatric care are very familiar with shingles, but others may not be.

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