Aug 09

Shrink Definition from the Urban Dictionary

The final post regarding this week’s “definitions” theme is on what it means to be a shrink. From one of my first ever Minding Therapy entries, now deleted:

Q: Why is it that therapists are often called “shrinks?”

A: Apparently this stems from someone in Hollywood in the 1950’s comparing the work of a psychiatrist to “headshrinking,” a cannibalistic practice involving decapitation. This later evolved into referring to therapists as “shrinks.”

In truth, although many clients in psychic pain do express a wish to have their heads removed and replaced with something better, no therapist has yet successfully achieved this.

The second paragraph, of course, is tongue in cheek. Consult any regular old dictionary, though, and it will tell you that shrink is in fact a slang term for a psychotherapist.

One might expect this widely used word to have a slew of entries in the slang-oriented Urban Dictionary, but, disappointingly, there’s not all that much actually.

Of a total of nine, the first couple definitions and several later ones confirm that a shrink is “a psychiatrist or mental doctor” or a “therapist.” The derivation from “head shrinker” is also mentioned.

But a few of the more elaborate contributions are, not surprisingly, reminiscent of the Urban Dictionary definitions for social worker, therapist, psychologist, and psychiatrist, which were addressed in previous posts this week.

Number three definition of a shrink: Someone who matches your symptoms to whatever random disorder they’ve just pulled out of their ass. [Example: My shrink told me I get SAD over winter and now I have to sell my car so she can tell me how much I suck each week.]

And four: That damn stranger who keeps coming to my house whenever my parents believe im crazy.

(Really? When’s the last time someone’s shrink made a house call?)

Finally, number eight seems to ask whether assistance is indeed provided by a shrink: someone to “help” you with your problems. If you’re “helped” as opposed to helped, I think there’s still a problem.

Alas, on such an un”help”ful note, my week of posts about the Urban Dictionary‘s unfortunate descriptions of mental health professionals must come to an end. See you next week, when this “severely damaged person who cannot be helped” (social worker) and therapist continues despite my issues to blog about therapyA process in which a false relationship between a counselor or psychotherapist and patient is created. The process fosters dependance [sic] and attachment and blames parents for all the problems that the patient has. The process usually ends in a painful abandonment and makes the patient feel way worse than when they started.

Oh my. If wanting to help improve the image of therapy and those who practice it has ever been a part of my mission, I surely do have my work cut out for me.

Oct 19

“Prime” (The Movie) Therapy: More Boundary Issues

Prime, a 2005 film billed as a romantic comedy, features a therapist named Lisa (Meryl Streep) who has a client named Rafi (Uma Thurman) whose new boyfriend happens to be Lisa’s son, David. Although Rafi is talking about David in therapy, she hasn’t yet put a name to him; thus, neither therapist nor client knows that the man in question is who he is to Lisa. A weird boundary issue not likely to happen in the real world. Could it happen? Yes. Likely? No.

Although it does happen on a regular basis that a client talks about someone the therapist knows, it’s usually not someone as close to the therapist as a family member or close friend. Sometimes it’s clear to both parties that certain connections exist, sometimes not. Sometimes the therapist hears about someone she knows but can’t disclose this to her client because that someone is also a client—thus, such info is confidential.

Back to Prime. When Lisa does inadvertently learn—outside the therapy office—that Rafi’s involved with David, she doesn’t know what to do. Rafi doesn’t yet know what Lisa knows. So she consults someone—her own shrink? her supervisor?—I don’t think it’s clear which type of advisor this is. A decision is made for Lisa not to share with Rafi what she now knows. The reasoning is that it’s in the best interests of Rafi not to know her boyfriend is her shrink’s son because telling her could do more harm than good to the therapeutic bond—especially if the relationship with David winds up ending sooner than later anyway.

Just writing the above paragraph felt aggravating and tedious to me—which parallels how I felt about the movie at this particular juncture. Although the film already felt iffy, now it was ruined because Lisa knew Rafi was dating David and didn’t decide to disclose this to Rafi. Why, I wondered, couldn’t Rafi be allowed into the loop and given the chance to decide how she feels about both her therapy and dating relationships in the light of this new info?

Here’s what Roger Ebert’s review indicated about Lisa’s decision:

…when the characters have depth and their decisions have consequences, I grow restless when their misunderstandings could be ended by words that the screenplay refuses to allow them to utter.

…In my opinion, [the] responsibility is to declare a conflict of interest, but then I’m not a shrink and besides, then we wouldn’t have a movie.

I do declare, Mr. Ebert, even though you are not a shrink, you do make a good deal of sense.

If you’ve seen Prime, what did you think? If you haven’t, you might want to form your own opinion and get back to me. I mean, it does have Meryl Streep after all. Here’s the trailer: