What Does Success Look Like to You? – Dr. Ashok J. Bharucha

What Does Success Look Like to You? – Dr. Ashok J. Bharucha

Ashok J. Bharucha is a renowned psychiatrist currently operating out of South Abington Township, Pennsylvania. An industry-leader in his field, Ashok is a graduate of the internationally recognized McLean Hospital of Harvard Medical School. He has also received additional specialty training in geriatric psychiatry from the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine located in Seattle. With nearly thirty years of clinical, research, and teaching experience, Ashok J. Bharucha is a driver of change. Firmly believing that the best outcomes are achieved through a combination of psychotherapy and psychoactive medications, Ashok takes pride in helping his clients improve their mental and physical well-being.

How have you achieved success? 

In psychiatry in general, I believe that successful outcomes are most often achieved through a balance of talk therapy (psychotherapy) and psychoactive medications (psychopharmacology). Talk therapy helps to identify developmental, psychological, and social impediments to growth and healing. Clinically significant emotional problems have a range of detrimental effects on a person’s day-to-day functioning, including their physical health. The benefits of talk therapy, for many, are longer lasting than the effects of medication, and help individuals cultivate change in a more meaningful and positive way.

What obstacles have you overcome in the process?

Sometimes a client can be mismatched with a therapist. It is for this reason that, when addressing a newly-referred client, I schedule an initial visit meant to function as a comprehensive consultation wherein I obtain the “lay of the land,” and collaboratively develop a working treatment plan based on the client’s short-term and long-term goals. However, no physician-client relationship is considered to be established until both parties mutually agree to move forward. So, the initial consultation allows me to evaluate whether I am the right psychiatrist for the individual’s needs. While I strive to help every individual that walks through my door, a physician-client mismatch often leads to poor outcomes. In these instances, I make every effort to refer them to someone with a more appropriate skill set for their presenting problems. In many ways, some of the most challenging clinical obstacles I have overcome in my career revolve around matching clients to those with applicable skill sets.

What drives you to succeed?

Cultivating a positive physician-client relationship is a critical component of a well-rounded treatment plan, and my ultimate goal with anyone seeking my assistance . My role as a psychiatrist is to develop a comprehensive plan of action based on the needs of my clients. However, putting these strategies into action requires a strong sense of mutual trust. Establishing trust often requires months, and not uncommonly, years. Evidence-based research consistently cites the quality of the connection between a physician and client as the most important factor in positive outcomes. What drives me to succeed is a desire to help my clients achieve an optimal level of  health, but in order to do so, I must first earn their trust, which is difficult to achieve.

How has your definition of success changed over the years?

I don’t think my definition of success has changed over the years—success has always been about the client reaching their goals. However, there are many different paths that can be taken in order to achieve this goal, and I believe that as I’ve gone through my career, I’ve learned more about the different techniques available and honed my professional insights about which of them work best.

 Collaborative dialogue focuses on clarification of problems, developing a shared understanding of the issues, educating the client about various treatment options, and developing expectations for what may or may not be possible in treatment. While I am a strong advocate of talk therapy, evidence consistently points to best outcomes with a combination of some form of psychotherapy and medication treatments for most serious psychiatric conditions. I consider psychoeducation to be a critically important aspect of this dialogue especially in terms of the expectable outcomes with currently available treatments. I often find that providers have not devoted enough time with the client in educating them about the nature of their condition, its longitudinal course, risk factors for future relapses, and the pros/cons of various treatment options. There is often an undue emphasis on medication management at the cost of so many other areas of their life that are impinging on their condition but remain unaddressed due to limitations of time and resources. 

What has success meant to you?

My greatest accomplishment to date is the active role I play to improve the lives of my clients. With extensive experience in both clinical and academic settings, I do my best to bring all of my knowledge into the sessions with my clients and their families. As a medical professional, one has to be a lifelong learner. I am always searching for new and innovative ways to do the best for my clients.

I have also been the recipient of multiple teaching awards and nominations, and I have been involved in research funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institute on Aging. I take great pride in knowing that I contribute to advances in my field.

Do you have advice for others on how to be successful?

Psychiatry is a vast field with many different diagnostic and treatment persuasions. I would strongly recommend to anyone considering a career in psychiatry to truly specialize in a specific approach that suits their talents and skills best. Although the needs of every patient require an eclectic approach with some degree of flexibility, I believe it’s truly important to know what defines you as a professional in your field, whether that be psychoanalysis, CBT therapy, specific trauma therapies, expert psychopharmacological services, and the like. In addition, I would strongly recommend that those entering the field of psychiatry consistently remain up-to-date on developments in the field given the rapid pace at which the field is evolving.

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