Note:  This is the first in a series of case studies about how to figure out if you’ve got the right healthcare provider for your needs.  This case study talks about how to work with those unsettling feelings that may be your first indication that things aren’t working for you.


Jane (a fictitious name) went to see her primary care doctor to talk about her anxiety and felt unsettled afterwards. When I asked her what felt unsettling, she said she was sure it was “all in her head” and that “it didn’t make any difference because this is the only provider she can see right now due to her insurance.”

“Maybe I was just too tired to explain things clearly”, she said.  “I showed her the Appointment Prep form because I felt too overwhelmed to talk much.  But I still feel uncomfortable with what happened.”

I asked her whether she could identify any bodily sensations when she thought about her relationship with her doctor.  She said:  “Yes, when I think about what happened, I clench my teeth, my shoulders ache, and I feel my stomach churning.”

I said to Jane,  “When you think about your interaction with your doctor and you feel into those sensations, what’s the first thing that comes up.”

Jane hesitated and then replied:   ” I don’t know.  I don’t want to think about it though.”

There was a long pause before Jane said, “Well, it may have something to do with the fact that I have been on this medication for a long time to manage my anxiety and they’ve adjusted the dose a couple times.  However, when the nurse verified my medications, their electronic records had the dose wrong.  That made me uneasy as the dose was way higher than what I usually take. And the last time I was there, before they switched to electronic records, they couldn’t find my chart and when they finally found it, it was the wrong chart and we didn’t figure it out for a while.  Or, maybe, the time before that when the nurse came in and said the doctor only had 10 minutes to see me even though I’d waited over an hour for her for a regularly scheduled appointment and I felt like my issues needed more attention than that.  And come to think of it. . . . ”

As you can see, there’s plenty of reasons Jane felt unsettled about her relationship with her healthcare provider.  Here’s a little synopsis of what wasn’t working for her:

-an error in the electronic medical records about her medication

-administrative issues regarding locating and then showing up with the correct chart

-inadequate attention to her medical issues

-excessive wait time for a scheduled appointment

Here’s the point:  When you have that “unsettled feeling” with your healthcare provider, it’s worth exploring. Why?  Because, over time, you’ll be able to evaluate if this is truly the healthcare provider for you or whether you need to look at alternatives.

Though you may think there’s no alternatives available due to your insurance, the needs of your other family members, or other reasons – you can trust the old expression that where there’s a will there’s a way.  And the first step is to look at what’s bugging you about your situation.

Regardless of what type of healthcare provider you’re working with – a therapist, psychiatrist, physical therapist or other provider – if you’re feeling uncomfortable, there’s a reason for it.  It’s useful to know what that reason is as a starting place to figuring out how to get your healthcare needs addressed.  Notice that I said this is a starting place to ask yourself first what’s going on.  I encourage you to think through this thoughtfully and carefully so that you can make the choices that are right for you.

Here’s the first step if you’re feeling unsettled about your relationship with your healthcare provider:   Ask yourself if you’re willing to explore what’s bugging you about this?  Don’t force yourself to think this through – instead, extend a friendly invitation to yourself like this.  “Hey, if you wanna talk about what happened, I’m here .  If you had to guess, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?”  You may want to journal on this, talk it over with a friend or leave a comment here to get it out of your head.

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