Downtown Magazine recently sat down with Dr. Nivea Calico, an adult psychiatrist who has her own practice located in the East Village. She specializes in psychiatry and providing psychotherapy and guidance to those she works with. We discussed Dr. Calico’s practice and what services she provides to her patients, as well as the importance of maintaining a healthy work environment and managing work place bullying.
Downtown: So tell me a bit more about your practice and what you do on a day to day basis.
Dr. Calico: I am an adult psychiatrist, and I work in my own private practice in the East Village. I would call myself more of a holistic doctor, though I specialize in psychiatry. When I say holistic, I look at a patient as one full whole, meaning their physical body, emotional state, mental state, and their spiritual experience. Unlike most psychiatrists, if you’ve ever been to one, a lot of people think you just get prescribed medication and that’s that. Certainly, I do prescribe medication, but it’s not my only tool. I often recommend other methods such as yoga, guided meditation, proper eating, exercise and therapy.
Downtown: What made you want to become a psychiatrist?
Dr Calico: Well, I actually didn’t start off as a psychiatrist, I started out training as a general surgeon. Upon getting into medical school and seeing what psychiatry was about, I felt that it was just way too focused on medication management and didn’t really utilize other medical things, so I got kind of turned off by it. I then got a residency after medical school doing surgery, and I loved the technical aspects but felt very disconnected from my patients. It got to a point where I finally realized that it wasn’t for me, and I decided to forego surgery and change specialities and revisit psychiatry.
Downtown: Do you have any specific approach or steps you take when treating a patient?
Dr Calico: I wouldn’t say that there’s one specific way approach; it’s really a patient-to-patient basis, depending on their symptoms. If someone is coming in with very, very severe symptoms of either anxiety, panic or depression, then probably those symptoms, those patients might need medication right away. But obviously adding on guided meditation or relaxation methods like deep breathing and yoga can be helpful in other ways.
Downtown: Moving in a different direction, have you dealt with patients dealing having problems in a work related environment? What is your experience with dealing with stressful work situations?
Dr. Calico: I would say in my training, I didn’t see it as much. But once I went into private practice, I saw a lot of problems dealing with work stress and environment. A lot of my patients were high functioning, all professionals, all worked in a corporate climate and were climbing corporate ladders, that sort of thing. They would come in and not necessarily complain about work place bullying, but they would be so stressed out, and would be having panic attacks over going to work in the morning. Especially in NYC, where things are intense and competitive, you kind of have that sort of thing, where people will step all over you to get higher up.
Downtown: Is there any particular way in how you deal with patients dealing with stressful work environments?
Dr. Calico: In this particular situation, with work place bullying, it’s definitely important to help them get a sense of themselves again, and to feel that they can get a bit of control back into their life. When work place bullying is going on, the person is meant to be feeling as if they are a complete problem. Everyone is turning against them at some point because the bully sort of brings everyone up to their psych, and all the other people are afraid of being bullied by this person.
People really sort of lose their sense of self, their sense of worth and their self esteem drops, and they really have nowhere to turn. So they turn to me, and I usually have them look to a few things. One is work life balance. After looking at them as a person, and trying to make them look better and feel like a human being again, I try to give them outlets for peace and happy living, like what they enjoy in life, such as music, spending time with family, etc. I also look at things like, Can they find a way out? Is this job something they must have to keep on living? Should they potentially go speak to someone in the work place about what’s going on? It’s just a lot of brainstorming about what can be done.
Downtown: Is there one piece of advice that you give your patients dealing with work place bullying that seems to resonate with them?
Dr. Calico: I wouldn’t say one coin phrase necessarily, but it’s certainly the support that is given when you meet someone that is so fragile and insecure. You kind of bring them some sanity back by listening to them fully and not blaming them. Hearing them and embracing them in this emotional way kind of says to them ‘Hey, you’ve encountered bullying, this is bullying, you’re not at fault for this.’
Downtown: What do you think of sort of the world’s and America’s perception on mental health? (Regarding stereotypes of people dealing with depression, anxiety, etc.)
I think there’s a huge injustice and huge social stigma of negativity with people dealing with mental illness in general, whether it be anxiety, depression, panic disorder, etc. It’s such an injustice because I’ve had people coming into to me that have been suffering for years, decades, in silence because they were afraid of acknowledging that they had a problem, and afraid that society would view them as weak minded. I think it’s a very archaic way of viewing that, and it’s not appropriate in today’s society with our vast knowledge of medicine. People are suffering, and they will not show up to me or any other doctor, or tell their family that they’re seeing someone because of common misperceptions. I just find it absolutely disgusting that people can be just so close minded, and something I wish to see change in my lifetime.
by Jackie Hart