Aug 07

The (Urban Dictionary) Definition of a Psychologist

According to the Free Dictionary, the definition of a psychologist is as follows: “A person trained and educated to perform psychological research, testing, and therapy.”

Without further ado, let’s get right to the first contribution about psychologists on the Urban Dictionary, one that’s highly rated by the voters: A certified and trained prostitute of the mind, who naturally charges for his/her services by the hour.

More respectful, fortunately, is the second definition of a psychologist: A person licensed by the state with a doctoral degree. Psychologists assess and treat people’s mental health.

From there, however, it goes downhill. The various definitions start to resemble a lot of the contributions for social worker and therapist addressed in previous posts this week.

Number three has three components: 1. Friend-for-pay. 2. A pathological liar. 3. A better and happier person than the patient.

Four: Ordinary people who went to college for about 10 years after high school just to be able to listen to lunatics bitch all day long. They also have a shitload of student loans. A good movie that illustrates a Doctor’s struggles in this profession is called “What about Bob?”.

Finally, number five: Someone who studies bullshit and then tells you all your problems are due to a deprived childhood.

The actual practice of psychology, though, has a ton more entries. How about the following? Which of these hit it right on the nose? Psychology is (A) generally defined as the science of behavior and mental processes and the application of the resulting findings to the solution of problems, (B) The section of Borders bookstore where all the porn is hidden, believe it or not, (C) a degree you can get on Wikipedia, or (D) nearly always taken by those keen to go out and get drunk rather than get a proper degree?

I’m going to go with (A)—but I’m not a psychologist, so what do I know?

No matter. There are more choices. Maybe psychology is really (A) the best way to find out that you are not special, (B) Total bogus crap. Nonsense, or (C) The women’s “science.”

I think if I were a psychologist, I might want to hang it up right about now.

Jan 06

“What About Bob?”: The Need to Take Baby Steps

Rita Kempley, The Washington Post, once stated that the now-classic comedy What About Bob? (1991) “…addresses the way many a patient feels when his psychiatrist has the nerve to go away without giving a thought to his problems.”

What About Bob? also been called “…a revenge fantasy for anyone who’s ever resented hypocritical exploitative shrinks” (Jonathan RosenbaumChicago Reader)

The movie begins with another psychiatrist sending the challenging patient Bob (Bill Murray), a highly dependent man with lots of fears, to egotistical Dr. Leo Marvin (Richard Dreyfuss). In the initial session, Dr. Marvin gives Bob a copy of his brand new book called Baby Steps (a book, incidentally, that many wish actually existed).

Marvin: It means setting small, reasonable goals for yourself. One day at a time, one tiny step at a time—do-able, accomplishable goals.

Bob: Baby steps.

Marvin: When you leave this office, don’t think about everything you have to do to get out of the building, just deal with getting out of the room. When you reach the hall, just deal with the hall. And so forth. Baby steps.

In spite of its presence in what’s otherwise an unrealistic and zany dark comedy, this simple concept of “baby steps” has proven meaningful to many who see it. “Baby steps” cuts right to the heart of the process of achieving desired changes in one’s life.

Incidentally, one real-life well-reviewed book about taking baby steps is called One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way (2004), by Robert Maurer, who teaches a Japanese technique that involves working toward “continuous improvement.”

One baby step at a time.

Oct 21

Therapist Boundaries (Violence): “Good Will Hunting,” “What About Bob?”

Do a Google search about therapist boundaries, specifically therapists and violence, and you’ll find plenty about clients attending therapy for being violent. From Psychotherapynotes.com:

…Psychotherapists can and do intervene to prevent hundreds if not thousands of acts of violence every day. We talk clients down from fits of rage, we help suicidal clients to find hope (or at least to understand what hurting themselves would do to their loved ones), we coordinate care with physicians to make sure those who need to be on medication stay on it, and when we assess imminent danger, we hospitalize or coordinate with law enforcement. The violence we prevent doesn’t make the news, but it saves many, many lives.

But can you find any reliable info about therapists being violent? Against their clients? No? Do we have to (misguidedly) look to the movies for such things?

Will (Matt Damon) in the movie Good Will Hunting (1997) is one character who has to attend therapy after an episode of violence. Finding the right shrink for Will, who trusts no one who tries to help him, turns out to be no easy feat. Well, maybe the less traditional, more directive kind of therapist we eventually find in Sean Maguire (Robin Williams) will fill the bill.

But before Will gets anywhere close to the meaningful catharsis the film wants him to have, he has to put Maguire through the usual hoops, in one instance meanly and provocatively maligning Maguire’s dead wife. What follows is this disturbing scene involving terrible therapist boundaries:

Lesson #1 (You Wouldn’t Pick Up From The Movies): It’s never okay to choke a client. (Or harm a client in any way.) (Unless, of course, in self-defense.) Even if the client then backs off and actually moves on to have one particular wowie-zowie life-changing therapy session.

Next up, there’s actually worse things a shrink can do. In the film What About Bob? (1991), the psychiatrist played by Richard Dreyfuss goes nuts himself dealing with Bob (Bill Murray), his dependent client who follows him, uninvited of course, on vacation.

Lesson #2 (You Might Not Pick Up From the Movies): Even unsuccessful attempts at killing one’s (annoying) clients are not allowed.