Shrinks Have Very Unusual Quirks

Dr. Steve’s office suite is a U-shaped space in a very busy part of New York City. It’s on a high floor in a skyscraper that gives great views of the surrounding areas and, because it has so many windows throughout, it’s easy to see across Manhattan in various directions.

Dr. Steve’s personal space is located in the center of the U, simply because it’s the biggest. He uses devices like his workspace and years of experience to justify his unusually large fee. My space is significantly smaller< and I'm sure he's secretly laughing at me for my modest digs. Recently I noticed that, when I'm in the lounge area of the suite at the top of the U, I can see through one window into Dr. Steve's office. I'm not entirely sure why I didn't recognize this before, although it's quite possible that subconsciously I just don't want to have to look at his smug face anymore than necessary. The view into his space is confined to simply his chair, so I can't see whom he is speaking to, but sure enough just at the moment I caught glimpse of his therapist's chair, Steve was sitting down to begin a session. Therapists refer clients to colleagues all of the time. Whether it be due to scheduling conflicts, lack of expertise in a particular diagnosis or a client's request (e.g., I'd like to work with a female therapist, do you know of anyone?), it's common to send clients to other providers for services. When this happens often clients will ask, "Is he a good therapist?" No matter what anyone tells you, the only true answer is "I don't know." The reality is that, due to the confidential nature of our work, shrinks rarely, if ever, see other shrinks actually working. We can only make inferences based on the way they conduct themselves outside of the treatment room. And even if I were to take an exit poll of every client leaving a colleague's office, the therapy relationship is so personal that there's simply no way to know if that therapist would be a good match for the person who is asking the question. With that in mind I peered into the window to study Steve a bit more closely. Aside from the fact that the window was filthy and that I can't read lips I was hoping to perhaps get a glimpse into how Steve conducts himself with actual patients. He nodded a lot, which all of us in the field do. He scratched his chin as well, the way Freud did. He even smiled once which, given Steve's cranky nature, was probably because the topic of his newly increased fee came up. At that point Steve reached over the side of his chair, presumably to pick up a cup of coffee. It's poor form to eat in front of clients but many of us will sometimes have a beverage on hand. But when Steve returned to his natural sitting position, he wasn't holding a glass or mug; rather, a 2-Liter bottle of Diet Pepsi. It looked particularly huge in his small hands. Thinking that he would be pouring it into a paper cup or glass, he surprised me further by simply chugging it straight from the bottle, without a trace of self-consciousness. It was as if he treated those family-sized bottles as his own personal allowance of cola for that session. I watched further as he continued to drink from the bottle every few minutes. When he stood up to walk the still invisible patient to the door, I realized it was 45 minutes later and the bottle was empty. Steve just tossed the plastic into the trash, a symbolic middle finger to the recycling community. I've mentioned my own quirks and I'm sure I have plenty of others of which I'm not aware. However the last time I checked I wasn't slurping down colossal bottles of Pepsi like a horse with a feedbag attached to its face. And the strangest part about it is that Steve is the last person I would imagine would engage in such gauche behavior. He prides himself on his impeccable office space, his luxury automobile and his tailored clothes. Is Steve some type of interpersonally awkward freak behind the therapy door? Unless I get some unusually impressive explanation (e.g., the Pepsi has magical therapy powers that only emerge if you drink right from a gigantic bottle), that's what I'm going to assume from now on.

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19 Responses to “Shrinks Have Very Unusual Quirks”

  1. Esther says:

    One word: gross.

  2. kate says:

    his teeth must be disgusting.

  3. Mel says:

    Haha, a 2-liter.
    He must have to pee a lot.

  4. Concerned Soda Drinker says:

    I, too, drink straight from the two liter bottles of soda, as do two of my friends and my friend’s mom, as I found out upon asking only 4 people if it was really that abnormal. Therefore we kindly request that you stop harassing us and our soda drinking lifestyles.

  5. :yb detsoP says:

    I don’t get it,why not just pour it?isn’t it uncomfortable to be picking up the awkward weight of the bottle?I mean,if it was 3/4ths empty,I would understand.But still…

  6. I would so not see a therapist who chugged two liter bottles of soda! I once saw one who apologized profusely for even needing to drink water, and she offered me water as well.
    BTW– maybe we should spend more time analyzing why you feel the need to stare through the window into Dr. Steve’s office;)

  7. Tina says:

    That’s just kinda weird. I mean, that’s the sort of thing you do standing in your kitchen, at 2 a.m., wearing a robe and mismatched slippers, but not in front of a patient. It’s like spitting or picking your nose. Everyone has done it at some point but, gosh darnit, ya never admit to it and you certainly don’t do it in front of company.
    As for the peeping Tom routine, I’d think it was a little weird if you didn’t watch, at least for a little bit.

  8. Michelle says:

    Dr. Rob,
    I’m a teacher (the best teacher in the tri-state area, btw) and I wish I could spy on my co-workers. I know I probably act a little differently with another adult in my classroom, so it’d be interesting to see how teachers teach when they think no one is looking. For example, at this very moment I’m perusing Shrink Talk on my prep period instead of researching how to motivate teenagers.
    Aside from that, my therapist has never drank or ate anything in my presence. A handful of times she has asked to go to the bathroom, however, and I let her go since she’s pretty old. And she often asks me if I want coffee, tea, or hot chocolate and even though I do, I say no.

  9. goats says:

    Wow. I get drinking the 2 liter in the privacy of your own home, but drinking out of a 2 liter bottle in a professional setting, is, shall we see “unprofessional” and somewhat vulgar. A 20 oz is one thing, but that is the largest beverage that should be consumed in a professional setting…While I am all for functionality, you have to at least pretend not to be a heathen in public. It owuld be like farting outloud–and then wafting the stench towards your nose.

  10. Tracie says:

    Also, my therapist always offers me coffee, tea, or water, and I never take it because my bladder is an overachiever and I’ll have to interrupt my session to go pee. Awkward.

  11. JD says:

    This is hysterical!!! And no, Pepsi doesn’t have any magic therapy powers…only Coke does. Chug away.

  12. Zack says:

    According to Freud, coke can really help out with therapy. But he wasn’t drinking it.

  13. marcia says:

    Oh, no. Is Dr. Steve real? Does he have a sense of humor?
    Binoculars Buying Guide

  14. Exapt 21 says:

    Hmmm…my reaction is that you are trying to give Steve a subliminal message here. Does he read your column? Surely someone is going to tell him about it. Even if you have changed the name, he or someone who knows him will recognize him in this post. Is this a good idea? You could have said all the same things but in a more annonomous way. Why didn’t you? Do you hate this guy? He could sue you for a post like this if he is recognized. It was an interesting post, however.

  15. marcia says:

    Subliminal? Seems pretty direct. Dr. Steve must be fictional. Or illiterate. I hope.

  16. While I loathed audio and video taping during training, it helped with “quirks” I wouldn’t otherwise know. I can’t say I’ve ever had a 2L in session, though I am (still) a chin scratcher and I also have “busy” hands….which is why I usually hold a pen. I once had a pt. ask if I had facial hair just so I could stroke it during session. (no)

    Notesfromthecouch

  17. cmloveiv says:

    Hilarious!

  18. Wayland says:

    “However the last time I checked I wasn’t slurping down colossal bottles of Pepsi like a horse with a feedbag attached to its face.” This entry and even the comments were really funny.

  19. Kvisling says:

    Even the greatest among us have to deal with fecal incontinence from time to time. It’s what a life of drinking cheap booze, ramen noodles, and shooting up with unidentified drugs will do to your insides…

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