Shrinks are Paranoid

I got a frantic phone call from Dr. Gail this week.
“Rob,” she said, clearly anxiety-stricken. “I don’t want to alarm you, but one of the clinicians here at the practice has been getting threatening voicemails from one of our clients. We just had a meeting to discuss our recourse.”
I’m rarely at Gail’s office these days so I’m never invited to the meetings. At the last one I attended Dr. Allison and Dr. Mike got into a fight over how to spell ‘Zyprexa,’ (an antipsychotic drug) and both initially refused to even look it up because each was so convinced of his/her position. Eleven minutes later, dictionary.com proved them both wrong. It was neither ‘Zipprecksa,’ nor ‘Xyprekksa.’
“What did the client say?” I asked.
“I don’t want you to get upset, but she said, get this: I’ll see you in hell!”
You might remember that I had received some highly vague threats as well as a more direct one so I’m not a stranger to a client’s potential for a strong reaction to his mental health provider.
“And what exactly is the problem?” I said.
“Rob! This is a direct threat and a crime!”
“How is it a threat? You’re probably not going to hell anytime soon and even if you are she just said she’ll see you there. What’s the big deal?”


“Can’t you read between the lines? This is aggression, a violent impulse! Don’t you see? You’re so naïve!”
Yes I see. In fact I’m having a violent impulse right now.
“So what are you doing to subdue this obviously homicidal maniac?”
“Well she’s called and left the same message five times in two days so I’m going to hire a lawyer to handle it from here.”
In defense of Gail the psychological/psychiatric community has been more vigilant recently following the horrific murder Dr. Kathryn Faughy. However there is a difference between being reasonably self-protective and paranoid. In fact this paranoia is essentially glorified narcissism: Gail sees herself as the focus of her clients’ world, some infallible and exalted Pope of mental health which she cloaks as a fear of being attacked.
“Gail, clients (and shrinks) say things in anger all the time. I know it’s been over the course of two days but could she be just acting out? She’s not describing any intent to do anything harmful to anyone. Do you even know why she’s angry?”
“We raised her fee.”
“Why don’t you just call her and tell her to stop the antics or else she won’t be able to attend sessions anymore?”
“Attend sessions??? Are you crazy? She is no longer welcome here! I will be following formal protocol for a threatening client and providing her with referrals. Through my counsel of course.”
“So the woman gets pissed off for having a fee hike, leaves a couple of silly messages and therefore you’re cutting off her services? Aren’t her actions a sign that she might need more help instead of less?”
“You know Rob, you can be very smug and condescending when you disagree with your peers.”
Unfortunately this is true. I’m working on it but sometimes it’s hard.
“I was just trying to warn you,” Gail said, “so that you could take protective measures when you come to the office.”
“Protective measures. Should I buy a bullet proof vest due to the imminent danger that we are all in? Obviously this woman is consumed with us all.”
“God you’re so difficult. Just forget it!” Click.
In keeping with the paranoia/narcissism theme of the day I then got a call from Dr. Jane.
“Rob, I just read your review of that chauvinism book. Do you realize you put your email in it?”
“Right.”
“Your email is online! Anyone can contact you now. That’s so scary.”
“Anyone could have contacted me before. There’s a direct link on my site to reach me.”
“Man I wouldn’t want my readers or clients or whomever contacting me.”
“Jane it’s really not that big of a deal.”
“Yes it is! Like, I have this one guy in my practice who asked me out on a date. He’s obsessed with me. I had to reject him, of course, but I was so afraid of what he might say.”
“So what happened?”
“He said he understood, that he wasn’t entirely clear about the therapist-client relationship rules and that he hopes it doesn’t impact our work.”
“Wow he sounds like a complete stalker. I hope you have your mace next time.”
“After reading your post I’ve been picturing my clients emailing me incessantly. It’s freaking me out.”
“I’m sure your clients have better things to do than email you throughout their day.”
“I need to figure out what to do.”
“How about you get over yourself?”
“Just shut up! I need a Xanax now. This is too much.” Click.
To all my colleagues who have written in saying how wrong I am about shrinks having “issues”: I apologize. You are clearly right and I’m wrong. We are much more normal than the rest of the world.

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21 Responses to “Shrinks are Paranoid”

  1. Linda says:

    I was told once that all psychologists are crazy. You are assisting in that argument, with you being the exception of course.
    Dr. Rob Note: I deserve no exemption although I prefer “neurotic” over “crazy.”

  2. Amber says:

    Wow. Are all shrinks this full of themselves?

  3. Adam Saleh says:

    Nice post, what does ‘normal’ mean in the psychological world.

  4. Mike says:

    I take it she doesn’t buy gas anymore since there are lot of people using stronger words that “I’ll see you in hell” there.
    The good thing is that she’ll be out of business soon since she’ll have made all her clients go away.

  5. Jason says:

    Simple steps to help Dr. Gail- 1) Remove head from ass. 2) Take a deep breath. 3) ??? 4) Profit.

  6. Borderline Betty says:

    Now, wait a darn minute, here. As a person who (clearly!) understands the shrink-obsessed and how, um, Disruptive they can be, I Still must take issue w/Dr. Gail (but, Lord Almighty, do Not show her my reply, as I do Not want her freaking out any More than she already is).
    The fact is, “I’ll see you in hell” could mean, like, for instance: “I’ll see you in Hell, Missouri”. Or: “Hell, Alabama.” Why would Psycho-Babe utter such a thing to frazzled Dr. Gail? Who knows? This client is crazy, right? Hey – That explains quite a bit, right there!! Okay, okay, so, maybe there isn’t any such town named “Hell”, located within the confines of those, particular states. Still, there Might be a “Hell” of a town, Somewhere in this grand, USofA! (In fact, I’m sure there are Many – or they Should be named that, if they aren’t). So, before it’s definitely established that Freak-Out Lady is referring to the Hot Place, itself, we simply Must get our facts straight!
    But, let’s say that Nut-Job truly Is referring to the very same hearth and home of the big “D”. Okay, yes, this is upsetting, especially if, by saying that, Looney-Tunes means: “I will off you, Dr. Gail and Then see you in Hell.” Sure, this is not good. But, a bit of perspective is needed, please!
    Fee hikes are no trivial matter!! You shrinks are already over-paid (from the client’s perspective) and yet, you all Only work 50 minutes for Every hour! Plus, Dr. Gail wants to palm off Crazy-Lady on some other, poor, innocent mental-health provider who (this is Really Important) Might have even HIGHER FEES. This all makes me want to have a massive break-down, and I think I will. Please pass the Zyprexa, and I’ll take it any way it’s spelled, (although I will not be compliant about how I take it.:)

  7. Jim Johnson says:

    Dr. Rob, are you trying to imply that shrinks aren’t all-knowing juggernauts of mental health? I refuse to believe that.
    In other news, I’m envious of anyone that can take a Xanax without dire concussions…such as wrecking your truck at 100 mph en route to a backwoods party with a bunch of strippers. Alprazolam: not for everyone.

  8. Wayland says:

    I’m not even going to touch Borderline Betty’s statement about time worked. Rob, you know how much you work even when you’re not at the office. Keep being awesome man.

  9. Blank says:

    Ahahaha, this post was awesome Dr. Rob.
    But you may like to know that Kevlar vests don’t do too much if you get stabbed by a knife, so you may want to reconsider your safety options around the office. 😉

  10. Maggy says:

    I’m sorry, I tried to read Borderline Betty’s comment and could not do it. The capital letters in all the wrong places just gave me a migraine.
    Thanks DocRob! You continue to entertain me with every post.

  11. Jen says:

    I can’t say which was funnier between the post itself and the comments toward it. Blank posted a comment about being stabbed with a knife and the vest not doing anything to protect you, that’s what I thought when I read it and also, great post, I love seeing your sense of humor.

  12. Michelle says:

    Hilarious, Dr. Rob! Faculty meetings are just as bad; teachers are nuts. (“Students are checking their EMAIL on the school computers. Their EMAIL!!! On our COMPUTERS!!!”) Blasphemy.
    Hey, and I don’t know what you people are talking about. My therapist and I go for a full 60 minutes.

  13. Sean says:

    It’s well documented on this site where I stand on the whole “psychologists being crazy” issue. And now that I just got my psych degree, I guess that makes me certifiably crazy, with documentation to prove it.
    Dr. Rob Note: Congrats Sean!

  14. scootah says:

    I’ve never met a sane psych student. Every psych student I know is either a former junkie, or childhood abuse victim, or some random other kind of crazy and they’re trying to work through it with classes instead of therapy.
    I’m certain there’s some bias to that sample, because all of my friends are fucked up – even the ones who aren’t psych students – but going to parties at meeting classmates of my friends who are doing psych degrees – it’s like Arkham Asylum with Vodka and counseling technique debates.

  15. Agamemnon Jones says:

    Wow. And I thought I was paranoid. I have to agree with you, Doc; I honestly didn’t see any kind of a threat in there at all. Just a pissed-off client, really. Everyone gets upset when rates are raised, and some people are pretty vocal about it. 99% of them just rant and rave and then don’t do squat. It floors me that these shrinks don’t realize it’s nothing to worry about. Shit happens. Your colleagues could stand to learn that saying. Hell, I’ve had clients say far worse things to me on any given day. You’ll end up giving yourself a heart attack if you don’t just shrug it off. … Then again, I’ve been shot 17 times by 12 separate clients, so perhaps I’m not the best guy to be giving advice here….

  16. Lauren says:

    I have to agree with scootah in some ways. Every psych student I know (including myself) has some sort of wierd quirk about them, some of which include mental disorders. One girl I know has OCD, one guy has a very long string of broken relationships, and I have an unhealthy obsession with horror films.
    The forensic psych faculty win on creepy level though. They’re all so happy, all the time, in a Invasion of the Body Snatchers kind of way. One of my professors who is in forensics came in to class excitedly telling us he was going to give us a special treat that day as we all did well on the midterm.
    It was the Jeffery Dahmer trial video.

  17. Aunt Fifi says:

    You continue to entertain and inform! Keep ’em coming!

  18. More information is out there than most people will want to realize. I’ve accepted that my patients will find me if they want to, so instead I try and establish the boundaries to cut down on the likelihood that they feel the need to violate those boundaries.
    Oh, and eventually I’ll have a carry permit, but that is more about the 2nd amendment than 2nd doubts.

  19. Adam says:

    Hilarious!

  20. […] I worked for Dr. Gail the office I used had a wall of windows behind the therapist’s chair that looked onto a busy […]

  21. Annie says:

    ….They act like they are some sort of a celebrity.