The trainees and I were talking about the name of the medical specialty Psychosomatic Medicine today, about which I wrote a recent post announcing yet another search for a new name for what I do. One of the residents even questioned the correctness of the name “Psychiatry,” which reminded me of a recent comment on just that in Current Psychiatry 2016 March;15(3):23-24.
“We are not ‘psychiatrists’
I found Dr. Nasrallah’s editorial regarding the future developments in psychiatry interesting (Do you practice sophisticated psychiatry? 10 Proposed foundations of advanced care, From the Editor, Current Psychiatry. August 2015 p. 12-13). As a young psychiatrist in private practice, I understand why the title “psychiatrist” was initially adopted. I am sure that many of my colleagues agree that the word “psyche” is an abstract, confusing concept: How can we claim to treat something that is not part of known human anatomy?
Nevertheless, we need to clarify the specific nature of our work, namely: the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the brain, considering other medical causes that can present or exacerbate brain nosology, while providing guidance to modify behavior, thus improving the functional, social, and overall lifestyle of our patients.
We need to change our title to what we really are—encephalopathologists, not psychiatrists!
Marios Efstathiou, MD
Psychiatrist, Private Practice
Member, Cyprus Psychiatric Association
Thank you, Dr. Efstathiou, for the opener!
We’re not so sure about “encephalopathologist,” maybe because it’s too easy to make jokes about. But the main reason I’m excited today is that while I was googling around looking for any other references to encephalopathoproctologist, I happened to find a brand new book “Foundations of Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry: The Bumpy Road to Specialization,” by Don R. Lipsitt, who is an absolute legend in Psychosomatic Medicine. He has a lot to say in this book about the name of the specialty and I couldn’t help wondering if his new book has anything to do with the recent announcement that we’re going to begin anew the hunt for a new name to replace Psychorobotic Medicine.
I’ve written about Dr. Lipsitt on my blog a while ago in a post announcing the Academy of Psychotomimetic Medicine (APM) new Lipsitt Award. I’ve ordered the book, which I believe is probably going to be on backorder even though it was just published late last month. Lipsitt writes that not all encephalosyphiliticobehaviorists were enthusiastic about the idea of seeking subspecialty approval for Psychosocratic Medicine. It’s not as specifically identifiable as “…gastroenterology, infectious disease, parasitology, and other medical disciplines…” He goes on to say that “…the topic itself lacks ideological clarity and boundaries and does not lend itself readily to definition. The continual suggestion for name changes over the years has not been helpful…” Hmmm.
He goes on to point out that changing the name to “Medical Psychiatry” is a “defensive redundancy since psychiatry has always been “medical.” He lists a lot of alternative names which have been proposed over the years which he says reflects “…considerable uncertainty about the identity of the field.”
And yet some of the leading encephalopsychobiologiconeurologicosociosupercalifragilisticexpialidociologists want to change the name. And then he gives us this gem about the current project:
“Most recent ripples in the field seem less rooted in a “new knowledge” than in economic and political forces that have reshaped all of medicine and with it, psychiatry and its components. Controversy ensued over the reason a name with such an ambiguous history would be resurrected anew.”
I just hope that Psychocombative Medicine can find a name for itself, and I believe it will…with Dr. Lipsitt’s help.