Shrink Rap by Dinah Miller, Annette Hanson, and Steven Roy Daviss


9827786Finally, a book that explains everything you ever wanted to know about psychiatry!

Based on the authors’ hugely popular blog and podcast series, this book is for patients and everyone else who is curious about how psychiatrists work. Using compelling patient vignettes, Shrink Rap explains how psychiatrists think about and address the problems they encounter, from the mundane (how much to charge) to the controversial (involuntary hospitalization). The authors face the field’s shortcomings head-on, revealing what other doctors may not admit about practicing psychiatry.

Candid and humorous, Shrink Rap gives a closeup view of psychiatry, peering into technology, treatments, and the business of the field. If you’ve ever wondered how psychiatry really works, let the Shrink Rappers explain.


As a medical interpreter I relay what was said in one language in another, so technically I only have to grok the words. However it helps if I know what the speakers are thinking and why they say the things they do. In many cases the patient’s thoughts are simple: “OW. Ow ow ow ow ow – a little help here?” In acute cases the questions make sense: “You have a fever, ache, and chills… have you been in contact with anyone who has the flu?” The one specialty that tends to throw me off, though, is psychiatry. Questions seem to come out of left field and I have no idea what’s going on in the doctor’s head.

Luckily the three doctors who wrote this book have my back. They each have a different area of expertise – hospital psychiatry, forensic psychiatry, and psychotherapy – and their combined depth of knowledge is evident and awesome. We’re shown scenarios with fictitious patients, explaining why the (also fictitious) doctors ask the questions they do, when and why certain medications should be avoided, and what they hope the patient will achieve via treatment.

This look inside psychiatrists’ heads was invaluable for me. I was able to think about cases I’m familiar with and finally realize why a certain medication was stopped, or why the doctor asked a seemingly unrelated question. I have yet to interpret in an institutional setting but I now feel much more prepared to tackle a jail or involuntary hospitalization assignment. The legal system is different where I am, of course, but the basic tenants of treatment remain the same.

In a similar vein, there is a lot of discussion about how psychiatrists are reimbursed and how this or that insurance authorizes treatment. It isn’t relevant to me, and things have probably changed under the Affordable Care Act, but it’s still interesting.

The writing is clear and easy to follow, striking a balance between jargon and a more general writing style. If you have some kind of contact with mental health professionals (like me) or an interest in the area you’ll love Shrink Rap. I’m not sure I would push it on friends not into medical non-fiction, though – give them some Mary Roach first.