Dr. Hochberg has been in the field of psychology for the past 14 years. He treats all psychologically related illnesses such as stress, anxiety, depression and hypoglycemia using a nutritional approach including . vitamins, minerals, herbs and diet. By combining nutrition and psychology he has been able to help many patients to become free of symptoms and to lead happier lives.
In as much as the patient is a human being and the doctor is a human being, a patient has the right and capacity to make an evaluation of the person who is treating him or her.
When was the last time you questioned what your doctor did? Do you always accept what he says as gospel truth? Why is it that we rarely question what doctors do? For many years this country had doctors who possessed ‘heart’ qualities in addition to technical skills. This type of doctor has practically vanished from the health scene. They have been replaced by highly technical specialists who give patients a minimum of their time or of themselves. It is important for those seeking medical help to search out doctors who are capable of treating the whole person, not just a person’s illness. People do have a choice. They have the option to choose who they want to treat them. You do not have to accept treatment without questioning it.
Inasmuch as the patient is a human being and the doctor is a human being, a patient has the right and the capacity to make an evaluation of the person who is treating him or her. Why don’t you sit down and make a brief assessment of your doctor and his performance in terms of certain attributes that I consider fundamental to a truly human medical practice?
Some of these attributes you may never have thought about in relation to your doctor and may have never heard discussed, but they are essential for your well-being.
How honest is your doctor with you?
This is a very touchy area because doctors usually think that they know what is best for the patients: This includes how much information should be shared with them. This is the area that brings out some of their greatest arrogance. They might know the technical information, but I am not so sure that they always understand the human dynamics behind what the patient needs to know.
For example, I had a 53-year-old female patient suffering from cancer. She was very ill, and knew it. She was gradually going downhill, psychologically as well as physically. After speaking with her for a period of time I realized that it was not so much the illness that was getting her down, but the fact that her doctors were not honestly discussing with her all the aspects of her illness. She wanted to know. She wanted to know because she wanted to take part in helping herself get well. She did not want to play a passive role. I discussed the situation with her attending physician, pointing out the patient’s need to be more of a participant. He agreed to have a more open dialogue with her. Consequently her entire attitude took a better turn, and she was able to deal with the cancer from a position of greater strength and courage.
Honesty on the part of the doctor enables the patient to free-up that active part of his or her natural resistance which will help to fight an illness. It is very difficult for passive patients to get well, because they are not bringing out their instinct to fight for their own health. Doctors need to help patients by being honest, and, by so doing, bring into play a part of the healing process which, even though much subtler, will often turn out to be the most significant and useful part of treatment.
How aware is your doctor of alternative healing methods?
For each illness there may be more than one treatment possibility. because each person is an emotional and spiritual entity, in addition to being a physical one, doctors must look to all three dimensions in order to gain the maximum healing perspective. The same treatment may not work for all patients, nor may it always work for the same illness.
Doctors need to have a broad spectrum. They cannot limit themselves to thinking that the most accepted treatment methods are the only ones that work. Some patients need to be treated by methods which may not have the full backing of the entire medical community. But if that is what the patient needs and wants, and if it is non-toxic and if it is available, then it is incumbent upon doctors to use that treatment or to refer the patient to someone who is skilled at it.
Do you experience your doctor as a compassionate human being?
In their attempt to be objective and technically correct, doctors often overlook the deeper human qualities within a patient. By doing this they are also overlooking their own untapped capacity to treat patients with a good deal of love. Love is another one of those tools that the good practitioner must carry in his treatment bag.
A 71-year-old woman with cancer which had spread to the liver was coming to see me on a weekly basis for psychotherapy. After a few sessions it became apparent that there was a good deal of anger within this patient. She was not angry at her children, she was not angry at her relatives or her friends or even herself. Who was she angry at? She was angry at her treating doctor. Why? Because his emotional response to her was flat and unaffective. She did not get any sense that he cared about her as a human being who was struggling for her life. Because she did not feel this love coming from him she did not totally either trust or carry out fully his treatment procedures. So he, the doctor, was defeating his own purpose in many ways by not expressing the compassion and concern which the patient needed to feel from him. We are not condemning the doctor here. We are simply saying that he needs to reach into his treatment bag and use this love to help treat his patients.
Does your doctor care what you eat?
Nutrition is such a major factor in a patient’s health that it cannot be overestimated. It is absolutely essential that each doctor see the connection that nutrition has to health. I have had many patients who have been helped just by changing their nutrition around.
No two patients have the same nutritional needs. Some patients have to stop eating meat because they have a poor digestive system and a high potential for coming down with a degenerative illness. Other patients have to start eating more fruits, grains, nuts and seeds because their entire nutritional approach has not been working they have been eating too many junk foods, white flour products, white sugar products and other foods which tend to deplete vitamins and minerals from the system. Others have to stop or reduce their intake of alcohol, nicotine and caffeine-because of the damaging effect they are having on the patient’s glandular and autonomic nervous system they cannot concentrate, they are losing sleep, and they are showing increasing signs of impatience and irritability. Still other patients may need an even more specialized intake of nutrients, vitamins, minerals and herbs because they are showing hypoglycemic or hypoadrenal symptoms.
In these days of increased knowledge about nutrients, it is necessary that each doctor be acquainted with these findings and above all be aware of the role that nutrition plays in a patient’s overall health.
Does your doctor recognize stress as one of the causes of your illness?
In the same way that no two patients have the same nutritional needs, it is also true that no two patients have the same levels of resistance to stress. It cannot be denied that stress is a causative factor in a great many illnesses which are being treated just by medical means. It reduces our natural resistance and immunity to illness. Illnesses that may lie dormant for years will show up when a person is put under a stress condition which is beyond his or her capacity.
Many times I have seen patients who have been in excellent health for a long period of time become very ill after the loss of a spouse through death or divorce. Perhaps this would first show up as increased tension, headaches or insomnia, but if the stress were not reduced, these would develop into more serious symptoms such as arthritic or cancer symptoms.
Stress can be a serious problem because it is often made more complex by the overuse of tranquilizers on the part of practitioners. The tranquilizers will often temporarily reduce the symptoms, but they never really get at the root of the problem. They simply mask it. The patient becomes very dependent on these drugs and might even become addicted. Then they have the problem of over dependency on drugs, in addition to the original stress-causing factors. The problem becomes more and more complex, and the patient is caught in a vicious cycle.
A 47-year-old executive of a small business firm came to see me with symptoms of hyperirritability and extreme fatigue. He also complained of an increased amount of physical symptoms which were being treated by the use of drugs. His life was very tense, and he was under extreme pressure on his job. He never relaxed. He found it impossible to lust do nothing.’ He always had to be doing something, and he always put himself into situations where he carried a maximum amount of responsibility. This was the way he was brought up, and this was the way he had always operated. He said, “Doc, this is the only way I know how to do things.”
I understood this perfectly, given his lifestyle and background, but I felt that it was imperative to point out to him that if he continued with this type of stressful lifestyle he was headed for a severe physical or emotional breakdown. He could not keep going at this pace. His body was losing its resistance. The present symptoms he was experiencing were, in a way, telling him that he had to slow down and reduce his level of responsibility.
Within a two-week period, he hired another executive to take over half of his responsibilities. He left work at 5:00 each day and began a program of regular physical exercise. I did not have to see this patient very long. He was bright, and he saw the connection between his stressful lifestyle and the physical symptoms he was experiencing.
Is your doctor afraid of death?
This is one of the aspects most overlooked by all practitioners, whether they be orthodox or engaged in alternative methods. It is absolutely impossible for a doctor to understand what a suffering patient is going through unless he or she fully understands and is in contact with his or her own personal view of death. This is not a morbid topic. This is not a subject reserved only for psychologists or psychiatrists. This is a subject which pervades all aspects of treatment.
I had a 53-year-old male patient dying of cancer of the urinary tract. It was very clear that he was dying. Everybody knew it, especially the patient. Not one time during the visits by the treating doctor was the topic of death ever brought up. It was in the minds of the relatives, and it was in the mind of the patient, although nobody ever spoke about it. The doctor merely proceeded according to standard operating procedures. He did not speak to the issue, and the issue had now become the issue of dying.
By not dealing with the reality of the circumstance, the doctor missed the opportunity of enhancing his own treatment. I am not saying that he could have saved the patient’s life by bringing out the reality of the patient’s death, but I am saying that he could have helped ease the tension and the insecurities that all were feeling by simply raising the subject. He might have been very surprised to see that the patient and the relatives were ready and very eager to embrace this issue. This alone could have helped ease the suffering of all parties involved.
Doctors must remember to make available to their patients all possible procedures at their command. If they themselves are afraid of death, their patients will not feel free to express their own feelings and experiences relating to death. They will suffer more, and be without any emotional or spiritual comfort during their last days. It is important for doctors to be honest with themselves, relax their clinical objectivity, and share some of themselves with those whom they are treating.
Does your doctor believe in you as a self-healing organism?
All healing is not in the hands of the doctor. In truth, the actual healing takes place from within the patient. The doctor can serve as the catalyst. He can provide the technical skills and the know how of the human organism. What he cannot provide is the willpower within the patient which will fight for his or her life. That resistance to the illness can be stimulated and grow only within the patient. The doctor’s role is to be aware of the reality of this capacity, to realize when it is beginning to function, and above all to allow it to take place.
Doctors must not interfere with the patient’s innate system of survival. They must not deaden it by the overuse of toxic chemicals, and they must not deaden it with the overuse of their own clinical pessimism.
I have had a good number of patients who had been given very short times to live many years ago, and are still around to tell the tale. Now what happened? Why are they not dead? They are not dead because from somewhere deep within themselves there had been triggered the reversal process. The disease or illness had been turned around. It had reached its bottom point, and from within the patient came the understanding and realization that he or she could in fact play a very major role in his or her own healing process.
If the doctor allows this to happen, his life as a practitioner will be made a lot easier because he will realize that he has a companion in the treatment process, that companion being the patient.
Do something about it
Once your assessment is complete, if you find your doctor lacking in some or all of these characteristics, do something about it. Above all, don’t be afraid to talk to the doctor. Explain your real concerns and express any doubts you may have about the treatment you are receiving. Give your doctor the opportunity to share with you that which he or she does not ordinarily take the time to do.
If the doctor does not respond or shows a lot of resistance or even antagonism, then find another doctor. Choose with good judgment a doctor who has the courage and sensitivity to understand that you are a human being first and that you deserve to be treated as more than a machine with a broken part.
Reprinted from Vegetarian Times/Well-Being