“Physician burnout” and “physician wellness” are now ubiquitous terms in the health care profession. For example, the ACGME’s common program requirements for residency now have an entire section dedicated to “well-being.” In addition to the numerous avenues currently available for physicians to improve their own wellness, I would also like to propose psychoanalysis as an option to consider by sharing my own journey as an analysand (person undergoing psychoanalysis) with a Jungian analytic psychoanalyst.
I have had serious conscious concerns about my identity, significance, and the meaning of my life since I was sixteen years old, and this propelled me to find answers by seeking knowledge that I could apply to my life journey. I came across the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and its parent psychological system, Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung, MD’s analytic psychology. I regularly returned to read works by Jung and even became an MBTI-certified practitioner by attending a training session during my third year of residency (a sincerely great use of my vacation time!). I applied concepts from analytic psychology to explore my inner life and the depths of my soul, and they were very beneficial for my well-being. However, it would be another five years before I seriously considered undergoing formal psychoanalysis myself.
Psychoanalysis has a reputation as a treatment modality for psychiatric pathology and afflictions of behavior with precarious symptomatology. This is probably due to the reductionist, disease-oriented philosophy of modern conventional medicine. Various schools of psychoanalysis emphasize finding the source of problems in the past of the analysand’s life. Jungian psychology can also be an avenue to address standard psychiatric conditions, but the ultimate focus of this approach is to provide guidance to the analysand to explore the interaction between their conscious and unconscious elements and to foster life-long psychological development and fulfillment for the sake of their wellness and wholeness.
During a pivotal time in my life when I was considering transitioning away from being employed full-time in corporate clinical medicine and moving towards private practice and non-clinical entrepreneurship, I started to pay more attention to myself and my wellness. One of the steps I took was to enlist the help of a local Jungian psychoanalyst.
My psychoanalyst sessions usually consisted of me relating recent happenings in my life, both external events and elements of my inner life such as thoughts, emotions, feelings, and dreams. She took notes whenever I talked about my dreams. She asked prompting questions to guide me with self-exploration and occasionally made interpretations of my dreams and actions to suggest what I should consider facing and doing. My regular 1-hour psychoanalysis sessions were both challenging and enlightening. For anyone who might be worried about whether or not such therapy might be covered by insurance, she did offer me a superbill with generic ICD-10 and CPT codes if I wanted to submit it to my insurance company for reimbursement, but I declined. I am still currently seeing her every one to two weeks as of the time of this writing.
My journey of wellness, wholeness, and personal development continues, and while I have been incorporating and integrating other modalities to address my self-care and wellness, attending Jungian psychoanalysis has become a key part of my journey to understand and manifest my identity, significance, meaning, and well-being as a physician. I recommend enlisting the help of a Jungian psychoanalyst for your own wellness, not to “cure burnout” but to learn more about yourself and express and manifest the wellness and wholeness innate to your life-long journey.
Francis Yoo is an integrative medicine physician and the author of Physician Freedom: Living Your Authentic Physician Life and COVID Contemplations for Self-Awareness and Personal Development. He can be reached at his self-titled site, Dr. Francis Yoo.
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