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Published November 19, 2002
Volume 10, Number 11



Dr. Dipti Bhakta’s Psychiatric Practice Keeps the Human Factor in Medical Care
 

By George Walsh
Special to Network



In today’s world of managed health care and HMOs, it’s easy for both doctors and patients to get the feeling that they’re dealing with a large corporation rather than building a traditional doctor/patient relationship. Fortunately, despite the increasing paperwork and referral processes, most doctors still practice medicine driven by an underlying desire to help and care for their patients. Dr. Dipti Bhakta, a psychiatrist who has an office at 5674 Stoneridge Drive here in Hacienda, has been helping patients cope with their mental health issues for the past five years. Dr. Bhakta went into psychiatry as a way to treat patients using a two-pronged approach of providing both therapy and medication.

Dr Dipti Bhakta“In medical school, my options included internal medicine and pediatrics but I was drawn to psychiatry because it involved treating patients as people and getting to know them, and not just as a disease process,” Bhakta says. “If I had chosen psychology, I wouldn’t have gone to medical school. I would have gone a different track and earned a Masters degree or a PhD, but I opted not to do that because I felt that my treatment would then be limited to therapy.” 

While Bhakta feels that therapy is an important part of her practice, she also understands that in some cases, medication is needed. As a psychiatrist, she has the option of writing prescriptions when she feels it’s necessary. However, just because she has the authority to prescribe medications, that doesn’t mean it’s the appropriate approach for every patient. “Some people just want to come in and get put on a medication that will make all of their problems go away when clearly that’s not the answer,” she says.

Bhakta’s inspiration for entering the field of psychiatry can be traced back to seeing a talented psychiatrist in action while doing her hospital rotations in her third year of medical school. “We had to do six weeks of internal medicine, twelve weeks of surgery, and six weeks of psychiatry. When I did my psychiatry rotation, I had to follow the attending psychiatrist to see how he interviewed patients. The psychiatrist I had to follow had a great smile and laugh, always enjoying his work. He was very encouraging and, before I knew it, I was feeling excited to get up in the morning and go to work-unlike when I did my other rotations. I really looked forward to working with the psychiatrists on the team.”

Dr. Bhakta received her training at UCLA Medical School and did her residency in San Francisco at California Pacific Medical Center, graduating in June 1997. She worked for six months at a clinic in Fremont, then transitioned to full time private practice in Pleasanton here in Hacienda Business Park. Currently, Dr. Bhakta shares an office suite with three other psychiatrists at her practice’s Stoneridge location. While she treats a relatively large number of patients, not everyone sees her with the same frequency. Some patients come in once a week and others come in every six months depending on their needs. 

While Bhakta’s patients are diverse, she feels especially comfortable treating women’s health issues such as depression, anxiety, postpartum depression, perimenopause-related depression, and anxiety. However, in the interest of her patients, referrals to other professionals are offered if she feels the doctor/patient fit isn’t quite right or that there’s another professional who could provide more appropriate care.

In addition to enjoying her relationships with her patients, as a scientist, Dr. Bhakta finds it both fascinating and rewarding to find the appropriate treatment necessary to help people with their mental health issues. “Treating bipolar illnesses is very interesting because there is sometimes so much change in the patient from week to week. Fine-tuning their medication is rewarding because you understand how they’re feeling and you want to help them. The trick is getting their medications stabilized despite the fluctuations, but the end result is making the patient feel better.”

The science of psychiatry combines both therapy and medical treatment but a major key to success is a willingness to listen-something a large number of patients seem to be willing to avail themselves of. “I’ve actually seen that people are more open to getting help now rather than making life decisions they might be unhappy about later. They want to try to talk about the problem before it gets to the point where relationships come to an end or they make a career decision they’ll regret. I like the fact that I help people making decisions that are potentially life changing.” Dr. Bhakta discusses just about everything with her patients, including work and personal problems. “If you have anxiety or depression or there’s a family history of it we can talk about it,” she says. “You want to help patients understand how to solve the problem at hand, but you really want to get to the root of the problem as well.”

While Dr. Bhakta immerses herself in her patients’ challenges, she is reluctant to share personal information about herself because it could affect the way that patients relate to her. She sees her role as that of an impartial observer who has the ability to give aid to those who are experiencing mental health issues. Knowing whether she has a spouse or children or what her socio-economic background is could have an impact on her patients. She is, however, willing to share a few personal facts. “I grew up in Orange County California. I enjoy skiing and traveling and, originally, my family is from India. A lot of times people hear my last name and assume that I recently moved here from India. Once they meet me, I think they get the idea that I’ve been here in California my whole life.”

Dr. Bhakta’s practice is flourishing in Pleasanton, but she feels that psychiatry is a bit under-served in the Tri-Valley area. “There really aren’t very many psychiatrists here,” Bhakta says. “The few that are here are very busy. I really think we need more psychiatrists out here because people are much more open to seeking help from a professional than they were 20 years ago.”

Despite the modern medical terminology, talking to Dr. Dipti Bhakta continually elicits responses that you would expect to hear if you could go back in time and talk to a small town doctor who still makes house calls and knows your family’s medical history without looking at your chart. 

“If I’m going to do a job, I’m going to do the best I can and put 100% of my attention into it and stay dedicated and honest,” she says. “I try my best to let people to feel comfortable enough to open up, talk about their problems, and feel that they are in a safe enough environment where they can tell me what’s happening in their lives.” Mental health plays a large role in everyone’s day-to-day happiness, and the availability of caring professionals like Dr. Dipti Bhakta makes it easier for patients to seek out the treatment they need.

 



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