Sep 28

Is Your Therapist For Real? Practicing Without Credentials

Is your therapist for real? As in practicing with appropriate licenses and/or credentials? There are actually “therapists” out there who lack the necessary education and credentials and/or licensure to practice.

When I worked in various agencies before entering private practice, it was never required of me to prove to my clients that I was indeed a therapist for real—I worked there, so obviously I was. Or was I?

Yes. I was. Looking back, though, I wonder how many of my employers even actually verified all of my credentials.

When I began my own practice, every now and then a client did ask about my education or experience. Whereas I freely shared this info, for the longest time I didn’t think it was necessary to display my diploma and other certificates in my office. Wouldn’t that be kinda showy?

Actually, no. Simply put, clients have the right to know that you’re for real. So now, all the framed evidence of the “letters after my name” hang in my waiting room. Ha, joke’s on you—they’re fake! Anyone with access to the internet can…

Kidding.

In the 1999 film Mumford a man relocates to a small community—named Mumford—where he pretends to be a psychologist named, oddly enough, Mumford. It seems that in his previous life, Mumford—the man, not the town—had learned something about relationships even in the midst of some serious drug problems: “For some reason, probably because I was too stoned to talk, everywhere I went people would talk to me. Tell me everything. Their problems, their inner most thoughts. Sometimes they needed advice, but most of the people just wanted someone to listen.”

Rehab then taught the man not yet named Mumford even more about how help is given and how help is received.

When he moves on to become a fake shrink in Mumford the town and Mumford the movie, Mumford the man is remarkably successful—and greatly appreciated for his shrink-like capabilities. As you may have already guessed, no one has bothered to check out the credentials of this likable newcomer.

Eventually, though, in Mumford the movie and in Mumford the man and in Mumford the town, things do fall apart—as they should, given the deceptive circumstances.

Sep 26

President In Therapy: Fictional “West Wing” One, That Is

I’m feeling bad for President Obama these days. So much stress—and possibly no therapy. How does someone in his position manage it all? Has there ever been a president in therapy?

At a professional forum in 1999, Kitty Dukakis, social worker and wife of former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, reportedly stated, “If you’re running for public office and expect to be elected, forget about letting it be known that you’ve been in therapy. It’s a tragedy that it’s come to this.” Moreover, she was grateful her husband didn’t get to become the president, as it enabled her—as the wife of a politician—to seek treatment for her addictions.

Has much changed since then? Has anything? Has any politician at a higher level ever admitted to being in therapy while in office?

My own internet research came up almost empty. The exception? It turns out there was a U.S. president who consulted a psychiatrist during office—he was fictional, however.

On the TV series The West Wing that aired from 1999-2006, Martin Sheen as President Josiah Bartlet saw Dr. Stanley Keyworth, played by Adam Arkin. At least once, possibly more.

In the story represented in the clip below, Bartlet has experienced a serious bout of insomnia following a conversation he’d had with staffer Toby about his abusive father, who’s deceased. Toby had suggested that Bartlet had never felt his father’s approval and thus still might be seeking it via winning votes.

I think it’s an interesting take on what it could be like to be a U.S. president in therapy:

Sep 09

Bob Newhart As Brief Therapist in Hilarious Spoof: “Stop It!”

Before Fiona Wallice‘s (Lisa Kudrow) three-minute sessions on Web Therapy, there was Bob Newhart as a shrink offering a different brand of brief therapy called “Stop It!”

In the Madtv comedy sketch of several years ago, the shrink played by Bob Newhart is considerably more old-fashioned. Whereas Fiona takes advantage of the internet, not seeing her clients in person, Newhart’s shrink sits behind his desk, his client on the other side. Mo Collins plays the bewildered, not-at-all-amused client.

For those of you short on time, you’ll need over six minutes to watch the full clip below—longer, actually, than the type of therapy advocated by this shrink. If for some reason you’d rather read the script, scroll down below the video:

According to Realtime Transcription, the following is the actual script featuring Bob Newhart as Dr. Switzer:

KATHERINE: Dr. Switzer?
DR. SWITZER (Bob Newhart): Yes, come in. I’m just washing my hands.
KATHERINE: I’m Katherine Bigmans. Janet Carlisle referred me.
DR. SWITZER: Oh, yes. You dream about being buried alive in a box.
KATHERINE: Yes, that’s me. Should I lay down?
DR. SWITZER: No, we don’t do that anymore. Just have a seat and let me tell you a bit about our billing. I charge five dollars for the first five minutes and then absolutely nothing after that. How does that sound?KATHERINE: That sounds great. Too good to be true as a matter of fact.
DR. SWITZER: Well, I can almost guarantee you that our session won’t last the full five minutes. Now, we don’t do any insurance billing, so you would either have to pay in cash or by check.
KATHERINE: Wow. Okay.
DR. SWITZER: And I don’t make change.
KATHERINE: All right.
DR. SWITZER: Go.
KATHERINE: Go?
DR. SWITZER: Tell me about the problem that you wish to address.
KATHERINE: Oh, okay. Well, I have this fear of being buried alive in a box. I just start thinking about being buried alive and I begin to panic.
DR. SWITZER: Has anyone ever tried to bury you alive in a box?
KATHERINE: No. No, but truly thinking about it does make my life horrible. I mean, I can’t go through tunnels or be in an elevator or in a house, anything boxy.
DR. SWITZER: So, what you are saying is you are claustrophobic?
KATHERINE: Yes, yes, that’s it.
DR. SWITZER: All right. Well, let’s go,Katherine. I’m going to say two words to you right now. I want you to listen to them very, very carefully. Then I want you to take them out of the office with you and incorporate them into your life.
KATHERINE: Shall I write them down?
DR. SWITZER: No. If it makes you comfortable. It’s just two words. We find most people can remember them.
KATHERINE: Okay.
DR. SWITZER: You ready?
KATHERINE: Yes.
DR. SWITZER: Okay. Here they are. Stop it!
KATHERINE: I’m sorry?
DR. SWITZER: Stop it!
KATHERINE: Stop it?
DR. SWITZER: Yes. S-T-O-P, new word, I-T.
KATHERINE: So, what are you saying?
DR. SWITZER: You know, it’s funny, I say two simple words and I cannot tell you the amount of people who say exactly the same thing you are saying. I mean, you know, this is not Yiddish, Katherine. This is English. Stop it.
KATHERINE: So I should just stop it?
DR. SWITZER: There you go. I mean, you don’t want to go through life being scared of being buried alive in a box, do you? I mean, that sounds frightening.
KATHERINE: It is.
DR. SWITZER: Then stop it.
KATHERINE: I can’t. I mean it’s —
DR. SWITZER: No, no, no. We don’t go there. Just stop it.
KATHERINE: So, I should just stop being afraid of being buried alive in a box?
DR. SWITZER: You got it. Good girl. Well, it’s only been three minutes, so that will be three dollars.
KATHERINE: Actually, I only have five so —
DR. SWITZER: Well, I don’t make change.
KATHERINE: Then I guess I’ll take the full five minutes.
DR. SWITZER: Fine. All right. What other problems would you like to address?
KATHERINE: I’m bulimic. I stick my fingers down my throat.
DR. SWITZER: Stop it! Are you a nut of some kind? Don’t do that.
KATHERINE: But I’m compelled to. My mom used to call —
DR. SWITZER: No, no. We don’t go there.
KATHERINE: But I —
DR. SWITZER: No, we don’t go there either.
KATHERINE: But my horoscope did say —
DR. SWITZER: We definitely don’t go there. Just stop it.What else?
KATHERINE: Well, I have self-destructive relationships with men.
DR. SWITZER: Stop it! You want to be with a man, don’t you?
KATHERINE: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm, yes.
DR. SWITZER: Well, then, stop it. Don’t be such a big baby.
KATHERINE: I wash my hands a lot.
DR. SWITZER: That’s all right.
KATHERINE: It is?
DR. SWITZER: I wash my hands all the time. There’s a lot of germs out there. Don’t worry about that one.
KATHERINE: I’m afraid to drive.
DR. SWITZER: Well stop it. How are you going to get around? Get in the car and drive you, you kook. Stop it.
KATHERINE: You stop it. You stop it.
DR. SWITZER: What’s the problem, Katherine?
KATHERINE: I don’t like this. I don’t like this therapy at all. You are just telling me to stop it.
DR. SWITZER: And you don’t like that?
KATHERINE: No, I don’t.
DR. SWITZER: So you think we are moving too fast, is that it?
KATHERINE: Yes. Yes, I do.
DR. SWITZER: All right. Then let me give you ten words that I think will clear everything up for you. You want to get a pad and a pencil for this one?
KATHERINE: All right.
DR. SWITZER: Are you ready?
KATHERINE: Mm-hmm.
DR. SWITZER: All right. Here are the ten words: Stop it or I’ll bury you alive in a box!
Sep 07

Burnout Versus Compassion Fatigue: Latter Sounds Better

Have you ever felt like you’ve become completely fed up with your responsibilities—your job, your relationships, parenting, etc.? And then felt like you just can’t do it anymore? And now you don’t want to get up in the morning and can’t stand the thought of facing a new day? And you’re afraid that what used to be doable is now downright overwhelming? Even reading this is a major chore? You might have burnout.

Burnout is what I describe in the form of a fictional character’s circumstances in my novel Minding Therapy. As the review from FriedSocialWorker.com (site may no longer exist) stated: “What I appreciated most about this novel was the way in which the author weaves the problem of burnout into the overall context of the therapist’s life. Burnout rarely occurs in isolation, does it? It occurs in the midst of all the other burdens we carry through life.”

But the term has its problems. Burnout, in the minds of many, describes people whose flames have died out. Burnout is ugly, depressing, unhealthy. Boring. Uninteresting. Old—as in, Hey man, whoa, like, you’re a real burnt out dude, ya know?

Wouldn’t you rather have a nicer sounding problem than this? “Burnout is a state of complete mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion. If you are experiencing burnout, you may notice it is difficult to engage in activities you normally find meaningful. You may no longer care about the things that are important to you or experience an increasing sense of hopelessness” (DarlingDowns).

Well, compassion fatigue is here to save the day. If you’ve got compassion fatigue, you’re tired because you’ve over-cared, over-helped, over-loved. Isn’t that a whole lot better?

So, next time someone remarks on how haggard you look, how your temper has flared once too often, how you don’t seem to want to do fun things anymore, don’t say it’s because of your burnout—say it’s because of your compassion fatigue. You’ll still feel like crap—but people will respect you so much more.