Isn’t Helping People Fun?

My office is in New York City, a short walk from where the Park Avenue plastic surgeons work their magic and make their fortunes in huge offices with white glove doormen and multiple office staff members. Because psychologists generally make much, much less than most “real” doctors, my financial situation only allows for a small space in a somewhat cheaper neighborhood. It’s nice and clean (“oh, this is…quaint,” according to one patient), but it’s obvious to anyone who has seen it that I haven’t made it big just yet.

When I walked into the waiting room of the suite this morning Dr. Steve was already there, holding my mail which he had taken the liberty of opening. He does this at least once per week despite my protests. Before I decided to pursue solo practice I worked for him as a staff psychologist in his group practice. Checks would come in from patients and he would cash them, giving me my cut the next day. 18 months later, he still thinks there’s an outside chance something addressed to me could be money from a deceased patient that got lost in the mail. So he opens pretty much anything that isn’t a Sears catalogue or Publisher’s Clearinghouse mailer.

Today he hands me a malpractice insurance bill, a summons, and what appears to be a letter. “Read the letter last,” Dr. Steve warns. The malpractice bill is no big deal, only $1,000 per year for psychologists. Since we’re not putting pharmaceuticals into people’s bodies or cutting open abdomens, we’re basically exempt from significant protection fees.


The summons requires me to be in court today, actually about an hour ago. I get these all the time because I spent a few months treating automobile accident patients. Auto insurance companies don’t want to pay the patient’s medical bills so they ultimately sue the patient, claiming malingering, and demand the psychologist, physician, chiropractor, and acupuncturist testify as to the extent of the patient’s trauma. At $350 an hour for legal counsel, this summons is the equivalent of my malpractice insurance bill. 10 whole minutes into the day and I’m about $2000 in the hole.

Per advice, I read the letter last and thanks to Dr. Steve, I don’t have to bother with a letter opener. I recognize the hand-writing immediately. It’s from “Mike,” a patient from about a year ago. He defaulted on payment for about six sessions (“I promise I’ll bring in the money next time”), so I was forced to refer him to another therapist and, ultimately, send his bill to a collection agency. He eventually forked over the money, but since then has periodically sent annoying, single-line threats in the mail:

You will go to hell.

I urinated on your car door handle today

Someday you will die.

Today it simply said: “When our marriages improves, you’ll rue this day.”

From a technical writing standpoint, this sentence is syntactically incorrect. Furthermore, his wife called me two weeks ago to tell me that despite their hard work in couples’ therapy over the past few months, she has decided to divorce him. So I suppose I won’t be “ruing this day” anytime soon.

I decide to give Mike a call and clear the air. It’s obvious this guy is having a tough go of things and he was great to work with, minus the fact that he never paid for his therapy. However, threats of any sort are not to be taken lightly so “polite but firm” is modus operandi for this call:

Dr. Dobrenski: Mike? Rob Dobrenski here.

Mike: Come crawling back, eh?

Dr. Dobrenski: No, not exactly. I got your most recent letter, and I’d really like to talk to you about this.

Mike: Save it, quack. I’m moving on, I’ve got my shit together now, I don’t need you.

Dr. Dobrenski: Right. So then why are you sending me these arcane letters every few weeks?

Mike: Fuck you! I’m going to get my wife back and be happy, no thanks to you!

Dr. Dobrenski: Look Mike, Louise told me that you’re getting divorced, and I’m sorry to hear that, for your sake. I don’t know if you’re in treatment now or not, but we did some good work together last year. Would you like to come back in? It’s pretty obvious you’re having a hard time.

Mike: To hell with that and to hell with you, I’m fine.

Dr. Dobrenski: Okay, I respect your choice. However, I am going to have to insist that you stop sending me letters that are, essentially, veiled threats. It’s against the law and if it continues, I’m going to call the police.

Mike: Fine, but I’m still going to piss on your car door handles. Later loser!

Isn’t helping people fun?

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27 Responses to “Isn’t Helping People Fun?”

  1. Gordon says:

    Hah, nice. I’ll keep reading.
    …Did he actually pee on your car’s door handles?

  2. Adam Saleh says:

    I’ve had some pretty insane patients as a CCT at the local hospital, so, yes, helping people is fun

  3. Fr00tloops says:

    Well this is nice. A new person in the Redius Friendship. I enjoyed your first post, always nice to see a broad picture of the psychiatry business.

  4. Derrick says:

    I’m looking forward to reading more entries. My father is a semi-retired family psychologist and primarily treats men who are spousal abusers (mostly court referrals). A lot of his stories leave me sadly amazed. Others are just plain funny. He lives in Louisiana, so you can imagine…..

  5. steve says:

    I’m the first reader…cool.I gotta say,any story that has pissing on cardoor handles is OK in my book

  6. Ashley says:

    Wow. Your job must never get dull.

  7. Rat Fink says:

    Ah, freakin’ sweet. I can’t wait to see what comes out of this site.

  8. Putter says:

    Good start, I am excited to see some more of your work.

  9. Kevin says:

    I love seeing new writers on Rudius, as long as it isn’t another Eric Schaffer or Drinking for Two…does anyone read that garbage?
    Anyway, I think you have much to offer; you must, doing what you do. Keep it up, I’m looking forward to checking for updates regularly!

  10. Wayland says:

    You gotta give it to Mike. He’s funny : )

  11. DaveJ says:

    Welcome to rudius, it’s nice to see a new writer as this place has slowed down a bit lately.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Ahhh I sence another great writer in the making.

  13. Robin says:

    speaking of peeing…I about just peed my pants this was so funny.

  14. Akasha says:

    Helping people sure is… Your site looks like it will be a really good read. Looking forward to more.

  15. Jake says:

    There is a “real” doctor version of the psychologist – it’s called the psychiatrist. Look into that. I think it requires that you actually become a medical doctor.

  16. Rorshak says:

    This was fun to read. Definantly going to start following these stories as well.

  17. Gabe says:

    Great first start. Looking forward to more.

  18. Anonymous says:

    I LIKED IT.

  19. Darkfox says:

    Well, that was quite the nice little read, that and I want to be a Psychologist, weee.

  20. Mary says:

    Wow…it is pretty good; I like it..I’m looking forward to checking for updates..

  21. Kelsie says:

    Nothing I love more than seeing a new name on the little ‘more rudius’ menu, i liked it! i’ll definently keep reading

  22. LilaChicaD says:

    I’m in veterinary medicine, and when our patients aren’t trying to maul or crush us, our clients are more than happy to pick up the slack. Isn’t medicine fun?

  23. leo says:

    “I love seeing new writers on Rudius, as long as it isn’t another Eric Schaffer or Drinking for Two…does anyone read that garbage?”
    I read that garbage. Especially drinking for two. I think it’s hilarious.

  24. Lyman says:

    ^ Hey, Drinking for Two had a BRILLIANT start. Now our hero seems to have vented enough of his excess mental energy to sound *normal*…
    Hello, Dr. Rob Dobrenski. Tell us a story of something completely messed up. I look forward to your stuff. -.^

  25. PoetJones says:

    Interesting to read about psychologists, i mean, the reality behind it. I believe i’ll keep reading.

  26. I once had a patient tell me that if he started slashing tires again, that he’d skip mine. I was going to ask if he knew which car was mine….but other matters superseded my pondering of how much it’d cost to replace my tires.

  27. Sunshine says:

    Huh… the title of this particular post reminds me of this white guy who taught english at a place my mother attended.
    He said that he was happy he was in a place he could ‘help people’ and make a decent living.

    You make a living doing what you do, no? You charge for your services, no? Then what you’re doing qualifies as ‘helping people’ only in the sense that what a chauffeur does for his employees qualifies as ‘helping people get from place to place.’

    I’m not dissing what you do, I just think that words like ‘help’ and ‘goodwill’ really shouldn’t be thrown around so lightly.