What is it that you don’t know?
Before you answer, take a moment and think this through.
But, really, what is it that you don’t know?
Regardless of how long or in which setting we have been practicing,
here is what we do not know for sure:
We don’t know what we don’t know
Before you dismiss this statement, consider reading on. Yes, we may think, believe, or pretend, we know that which we don’t know, but this is only proof of the claim that we don’t know what we don’t know. Here’s a quick example: One day, someone working in his lab demanded to be escorted to the hospital. Here’s how the first meeting with the hospital psychiatrist went (with some paraphrasing and some exact quotes):
Psychiatrist: “Mr. Marconi, your friends are worried about you, and I must say so am I. You believe you can hear and send messages through the air. Do you not know this is textbook definition of Schizophrenia?”
Patient: “I don’t hear disembodied voices in my head. I hear and send messages through invisible waves.”
Psychiatrist: “And this is less delusional how exactly?”
Patient: “It’s not delusional because it’s true.”
Psychiatrist: “Well, this has not been my experience.”
Patient: “Well, your experience belongs to the past.”
The psychiatrist, Dr. Fielding, did end up discharging Mr. Marconi, who, 13 years later, in 1909, won the Nobel Prize in Physics, and is now known as the inventor of the radio. His name was Guglielmo Marconi. How many of our patients may be another Guglielmo Marconi, and how many of them need to have their symptoms re-contextualized. The answer to this question leads us to the second assertion:
We may not know how to know that which we don’t know
If this reads like a mouthful, before you dismiss it, make an effort to read it over until you fully grasp it. It is easy for us to automatically discard, judge, or label, things we fail to understand. This in turn partially proves the fact that we may not know how to know that which we don’t know.
Here’s how it works. To become a clinician, we went to school, be it medical school, school of psychology, social work school, among others. We are then taught according to what has been found in books, written decades and even half a century prior. All these outdated pieces of information forms the basis for how we practice and how we work with our patients and clients. Considering the fact that:
By the time these books are printed they’ve already been outdated; and
It takes an average of 15 years for new scientific discoveries to be translated into clinical practice.
We may now understand that we are operating, thinking, making decisions, and practicing, based upon outdated and often erroneous knowledge and information. It is as if we are stuck on Newtonian Physics and then ignore Quantum Mechanics. Except that ignoring the principles of Quantum Mechanics will not stop the principles of physics from continuing to operate.
When working with patients and clients, we sadly and unfortunately “do to them” according to our understanding, which in turn is bound by what we know, without knowing what we don’t know, and without knowing how to know that which we don’t know. Those of us, who have gotten to the place where we feel we need to continue to learn, have decided to search for new learning. But there is a problem, still, and this takes us to the third assertion:
We don’t know how to best find the answer
Do you want to know why?
Because each time we go to a training,
or seminar, or workshop;
We go there just to go. Perhaps, this attitude is due to the fact that we are either burnt-out, or overwhelmed with work, or perhaps, it is due to additional reasons;
We go there only because we have been asked by our supervisor to go;
We go there with a closed mind, thinking that we already know it all; that there is nothing else to learn; that we have seen it all; mastered it all; because “I’ve been practicing for over 30 years, now.”
As a result, we fail to be emotionally involved, we fail to learn, and our failure to open our mind makes us waste plenty of resources, including time and money.
Here’s a challenge for you:
Come to our upcoming seminar on New Strategies to Engaging Patients and Clients, with an open mind. You will get a 100% money back, unless, by the end of the seminar, you have achieved at least one of the following:
1. You have realized that you did not know what you did not know;
2. You have learned and mastered new tools to enhance your engagement skills;
3. You have found inspiring ways to make a difference in your practice, your career, or in the causes you truly believe in.
The SWEET Institute is about supporting you, by helping you feel empowered, providing you with a community of like-minded clinicians, bringing you value, and providing you with tools to help you provide excellent care while preventing burnout, and promoting self-care. We strive to exceed our promise, we hope you will continue to be our catalyzer, and we look forward to seeing you at our upcoming seminar.
May you continue to be empowered, by:
Knowing what you don’t know
Knowing how to know that which you don’t know
Knowing how you learn best
For more in this series of articles, check below!
Dr. Sidor is quadruple board certified in psychiatry, with board certification in General adult, Child and adolescent, Addiction, and Forensic, psychiatry. He also has additional training in public psychiatry, in several treatment modalities, in addition to his teaching, supervision, mentorship, coaching, and management, experience. Some of his passions are public speaking, leadership, entrepreneurship, and research, in addition to program development and project management. His overall goal is to empower all health care professionals throughout the United States and globally, towards ensuring the continuity of excellent patient care, while balancing the need to take care of themselves. Dr. Sidor is the main instructor for the SWEET Institute, and he is currently an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University. He is also the past-Medical Director for CASES (Center for Alternative Sentencing and employment Services), and he speaks and writes fluently in six (4) languages—French, English, Spanish, Creole, and has intermediate proficiency in Portuguese and Italian.