Your analyst, my matchmaker: I can only echo what Spike said in sending me a pointer to this item. Holy moly! Eligible New Yorkers currently in therapy can hire psychoanalysts as matchmakers, at $2,000 a whack. Your therapist — in all true, gruesome candor — reveals your personality styles, neuroses, defenses and styles of self-deception to other participating therapists, they find a suitable match on that basis, and you discuss how the arranged relationship is going in your therapy. The self-serving rationale of Frederick Levenson, the analyst organizing this service is that only people who are in therapy are self-observant, and smart, enough to be good romantic prospects, and that only having your therapist present your attributes avoids the dishonest self-promotion people do when dating under their own steam.
My reactions, as a psychiatrist? It’s a no-brainer; this is reprehensible, both in terms of its grandiose claim to omniscience, its exploitative opportunism, and the damage it does to patient autonomy and growth. I think there are grounds to report these people to their profession’s board of ethics, in fact! I’m not alone in these misgivings, of course; the article does a good job of collecting critical quotes. Put succinctly by therapist Jane Greer — organizing your patient’s life for them “is contrary to the notion of therapy, which is teaching patients how to take care of themselves.” Not explored in the article, but worth asking, is how to think about the patients who resort to this service — helpless victims at the mercy of their transference to their analysts or pitifully collusive in their own failure to grow up?
This dating service phenomenon does not stand in isolation, but should probably be seen as part of the more general societal trend away from genuine autonomy as a value. For example, consider the increasingly popular new ‘helping profession’ called life coaching whose practitioners explicitly frame their role as not refraining from telling their clients what to do. It’s not therapy, but… Dr. Levenson, making more of a mockery of his psychoanalytic credentials then he did by authoring the ludicrously titled but similarly exploitative-sounding self-help book, The Anti-Cancer Marriage: Living Longer Through Loving, would be well advised to hang out a ‘life coaching’ shingle instead, but then he couldn’t charge his outrageous Manhattan analytic fees to mess with his clients’ minds, could he? The New York Observer
Here’s a Google search for Levenson. Don’t get me started on how irresponsible it is considered in the medical field to blame cancer patients for their malignancies by unproven innuendoes that their unresolved emotional issues (what? which they can only deal with by paying those Manhattan analytic fees to Levenson and his ilk?) cause or enhance their tumor growth. But, then, he’s not a member of the medical profession after all, he’s a Ph.D. psychologist. (Recall my diatribe several weeks ago when psychologists received prescribing privileges in New Mexico?) It’s a different discussion altogether, but traditional psychoanalytic training institutes, elitist though it may be considered to be, restricted their membership to medical doctors, i.e. psychiatrists. In response, we’ve seen in the last decade the traditional psychoanalytic establishment pit against the explosive growth of alternative psychoanalytic institutes with fewer restrictions on admission criteria, such as the one with which Levenson is associated. Controversy over such populism has torn the field of psychoanalysis asunder, as documented in Janet Malcolm’s eloquent coverage of the discipline in the New Yorker a decade or so ago, for example. Would it strike you that analysts like Levenson are an argument for a return to far more stringent gatekeeping standards on the profession?