The Shrink Files

Shrink Love

Jen was my very first private patient and I felt green and nervous. She was not yet twenty and had just been released from a psychiatric facility where she had been hospitalized for a year. This was an era when people had a hard time getting out of mental hospitals, unlike now, when people have a hard time getting in. The reason for her hospitalization was sketchy. Basically, she was upset by the death of her father. Her level of “upset” would not indicate a long-term hospital stay today.

Jen told me that she fell “madly, totally and completely” in love with her “hot”  inpatient psychiatrist, Dr. Cohen,  and she did everything in her power to seduce him. All the patients had a crush on Dr. Cohen, and they even had a name for it — “Cohen sickness.” (The name they used was cleverer, but I’m disguising things.) Jen had a particularly bad case.  She had sessions with him four times a week and she would prepare for these by putting on perfume and make-up, blowing out her hair, and taking off her bra. Jared, another young adult patient in the facility, also saw Dr. Cohen four times a week. Hoping to make Dr. Cohen jealous, Jen deliberately had frequent wild sex with Jared so that Jared would report the interactions to Dr Cohen. Of course Jen herself made sure to tell Dr. Cohen of these erotic encounters — in detail. Many kudos to Dr. Cohen for resisting her tantalizing overtures.

Much of our year long therapy was taken up with mourning the loss of her former therapist and recounting his virtues.  He was so handsome, so charismatic, “the sun and the moon and the stars.” She wanted to go back to the hospital to be with him. Her “Cohen sickness” seemed intractable. When I pointed out that her infatuation with Dr. Cohen might have something to do with longing for her father, she dismissed the idea totally,  insisting that her love was real. He was so good looking.

I started to feel jealous, competitive with Dr. Cohen. What was I ( her new therapist) chopped liver?

Eventually Jen went back to Dr. Cohen for a planned final session. She waited eagerly this meeting. Week after week I listened to her excited fantasies about the anticipated encounter. Finally she met with him.  After her session with Dr. Cohen she said “You know, he looked old.” She had  let go!  Suddenly, no more “Cohen sickness.” But though she let go, I remained curious. Who was this guy about whom I had heard so much?

Years later I went to an APA conference, and discovered that I was giving a paper at the same time as Dr. Cohen had been assigned to give one, though my time slot was shorter. Here was my chance to scope out the object of Jen’s affection. I gave my talk and rushed off to check out Dr. Cohen. Standing in back of the conference room, I looked at him in the distance and thought….Oh, my God! Jen was right. Objectively speaking, Dr. Cohen was rather handsome. Maybe her attraction to him wasn’t all about her father. I found myself thinking about him, looking up his background, wondering about his marital status, listening for his name in professional circles…until I realized….I had caught Jen’s disease. I had “Cohen sickness”….mild case…it passed.

(The patients and doctor described are disguised)


Smart Ass

“I’m always the smartest guy in the room,” my young highly successful entrepreneur patient said to me in his first session. “Not in this one,” I replied. In retrospect, I’m not sure it was true, but i think it was therapeutic. He needed a therapist whom he could butt up against and not destroy.

(Note that the patient’s identity is disguised)