Can my shrink be a reference?
July 23, 2006 3:35 PM   Subscribe

Is it completely absurd to use one's psychiatrist as a reference for admission to medical school?

I saw a psychiatrist weekly for a few years for treatment of mild depression and a significant degree of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. He certainly knows me well (as demanded by the medical schools), and could write a fine letter of reference. Plus, he's a doctor!

Would doing this be detrimental to my application? Is it just odd? Are there any issues from the psychiatrist's point of view about being a reference?
posted by greatgefilte to Education (14 answers total)
It would not be appropriate for your therapist to write you a reference letter.
posted by Sara Anne at 3:43 PM on July 23, 2006

I agree with Sara Anne, this would not be appropriate. A letter of reference should deal with how you are professionally, and come from someone that you have worked with in a professional endeavour (research, shadowing, supervisor, etc).
posted by ruwan at 3:51 PM on July 23, 2006

ruwan, the application calls for one letter from a so-called 'character reference,' who can be objective about the applicant's personal qualities and suitability for the role of physician. Issues of appropriateness aside, I do think it would be informative.
posted by greatgefilte at 3:56 PM on July 23, 2006

I would assume that it wouldn't be ethical for your reference letters to be written by anyone who is in your pay.

Moreover, I think there might be confidentiality issues as far as having your therapist write you a letter.
posted by anjamu at 4:04 PM on July 23, 2006

I'm sure it would be informative, but how useful do you think a reference saying "I knew greatgefilte when s/he had depression and a significant degree of OCD" would be?

Your psych would also have ethical issues about this; they normally maintain very clear boundaries between your treatment and the rest of your life.
posted by cogat at 4:10 PM on July 23, 2006

cogat, hence my query. It sounded like a good idea in my head, but I know better than to go getting myself into awkward situations without getting advice from others. :)
posted by greatgefilte at 4:13 PM on July 23, 2006

Have you asked your psychiatrist his opinion of its appropriateness?
posted by rhapsodie at 4:21 PM on July 23, 2006

No way.

Get professors and bosses.
posted by k8t at 4:33 PM on July 23, 2006

Yes, it's completely absurd.
posted by jayder at 4:34 PM on July 23, 2006

That depends, are you insane?
posted by blue_beetle at 4:42 PM on July 23, 2006

No, more correctly:

Are you applying to med school to be a "test dummy" in a psych program?

If so, then yes.

posted by baylink at 6:42 PM on July 23, 2006

If you have to ask, it is a bad idea.
posted by gatorae at 7:21 PM on July 23, 2006

He would almost have to break confidentiality to give you the best rec he could -- or even a truthful rec. That is, I doubt s/he knows you out of the office too much.

You'd be letting your psych be exposed to a lot of crap if you were not able to get in and you got angry.....Or, even if another doc read the letter and was like, "I can't believe a colleague is agreeing to such a request."
posted by narebuc at 10:24 PM on July 23, 2006

I'm a psychiatrist. I agree with all those above who tell you what a bad idea it is. It is a conflict of interest, it is counter-therapeutic, and it would do you no favors either with the admissions committee or with your relationship with your shrink, whether you got in or not.

If your psychiatrist would write you a letter, I would worry about him/her. If an admissions committee knew (a) you had asked, and (b) s/he had written, they would worry about you. Besides, a good letter of reference describes how and for how long the refernce writer has known you. Do you really want taht said in this case?
posted by emg at 8:35 PM on July 24, 2006

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