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- THUMBS UP
A licensed psychologist dishes about his patients, and himself.
The life, times and thoughts of a New York therapist are put on display in a candid account of what goes on behind the doctor’s door—and in his head—during a day filled with patients and self-doubt. Tackling serious mental-health subjects without being overly reverent, ShrinkTalk.Net blogger Dobrenski maintains a snappy pace. Patients are not spared his keen observations, which help to answer the vexing question: Am I paranoid, or does my shrink think I’m crazy—and sloppy? Take the author’s account of patient Scott, “six-foot-four, disheveled, overweight, and constantly perspiring. He began many of his sentences with an F-bomb and arrived for his sessions in T-shirts that were too tight for his abdomen, and white sneakers with black socks. His hands were always very clammy, but he insisted on a handshake every time he entered the therapy room. He was easily the brunt of many people’s jokes.” But Dobrenski also puts himself under the microscope, ultimately heeding the old chestnut: “No psychologist should pretend to understand what he does not understand…only fools and charlatans know everything and understand nothing.” The author also cautions those being shrinked: “The human condition is so complex and constantly evolving and no one person or institution has all the answers. Therapy will never be an exact science, and therefore there will never be the perfect textbook or teacher or school that will create the Ultimate Therapist who puts his hand on your head and cures you of each and every ill.”
Clean, honest writing makes for an engaging read, particularly for “couch” potatoes.
2) Dr. Robin Baker, author of Sperm Wars and Primal
If you ever wondered what your shrink was like out of office hours, then this is the book for you. A fascinating, thought-provoking and at times hilarious read.”
3) Library Journal
Clinical psychologist Dobrenski, author of the popular Shrink Talk blog (www.shrinktalk.net), wants us to understand that therapists can be crazy, too. To that effect, he tells us about a colleague who has panic attacks and describes his own obsession with a former girlfriend. But mostly he writes about what therapists do and describes the different kinds of patients he may see in a typical day—a couple with a troubled marriage, a teenage boy who’s trying to cope with his parents’ divorce, a woman mourning the death of her husband. He relates unusual encounters, including working with sex offenders and their partners and a blind man who “cured” his depression in a most hair-raising way.
VERDICT: Fun for anyone who’s wondered what it’s like to make a living by listening to other people’s troubles all day.
Crazy is a humorous book with individual chapters devoted to specific aspects of mental illnesses or concerns.
Dr. Dobrenski intricately intertwines both the patient’s and the professional’s viewpoint regarding each topic and its possible solution—or lack thereof—in an irreverent and comical manner. Throughout the book, the author indulges in self-deprecating absurdities and witty descriptions of extreme psychological distress to delve into how shrinks work with and feel about their patients—especially how they attempt to manage their own dysfunctional lives.
This book is a well-rounded treatise on the everyday world in which a psychologist may find himself or herself. Descriptions of various mental illnesses, which often appear abstract and mysterious to the average person, are incorporated into the story in common scenarios using simple language that readily propels the narrative along.
As the author vacillates between situations happening during supervised therapies in graduate school to current doctor-patient interactions, the reader is treated to an unusual glimpse of training therapies as they relate and compare to present day professional techniques in the mental health field.
We follow the failures and successes of patients with obsessive compulsive disorder; watch as a man celebrates his newfound independence in driving—unconcerned that he is still blind; empathize with the author as he searches for his own sanity after the loss of a relationship that had really never fully developed; and more. Perhaps many will find a touch of their own insecurities in the discussions from the group therapy sessions.
Crazy is a well written, fun book to read highlighting situations that many psychologists should be able to both relate to and find the humor in.
Unfortunately, the intended audience is not quite clear. The lively pacing and readability along with the topic would ensure the interest of a general audience. But many of the insights into the therapeutic techniques and various attitudes of doctors toward patients could be a detriment to some patients in need of psychological help—or at the very least could change the dynamics of those therapy sessions. Perhaps the latter is really the intent of the author? Is knowing more about your shrink’s processes, thought patterns, and treatment approaches a good thing or a bad thing?
If we accept the author’s suggestion that nearly all psychologists have more insecurities and problems than their patients—or that they are simply in the profession to make large incomes, patient be dammed,—it would not be surprising to find his peers shunning him.
Perhaps the best option is to accept the book as it probably is intended: as just a fun read spoofing a profession that still seems a bit mysterious to the layperson. Highly recommended nonetheless.
5) Tucker Max, author of I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell
Most people who get into psychology as a profession do it because they’re crazy, and it’s their way of healing themselves. The problem is, they never admit this fact to themselves or to anyone else. Dr. Rob does what very few psychologists ever do: He looks at himself with the same eye for analysis that he uses for his patients.
6) The Philadelphia Lawyer, author of Happy Hour Is for Amateurs
It takes a truckload of guts to write a book this honest about one’s profession. To pen one as funny and insightful as Crazy is, simply, amazing. You’ll never view therapy in the same light again.”
As a Rudius Media alum, it’s hard not to compare Dr. Rob’s Crazy, to the works of Tucker Max and The Philadelphia Lawyer. And, not being one for doing things the hard way, I won’t avoid such a comparison.
Tucker has sex with midgets and craps across a hotel lobby. Phila Lawyer drunk drives evidence away from the scene of a crime and shows up to court in even worse states. Dr. Rob’s work, the professional things he deals with in an office, for pay, licensed under the law, make those other stories look like child’s play. Which is a bit ironic, given Dr. Rob’s childish appearance.
Crazy is an intensely well rounded look at the life of a psychologist, both in terms of the patients treated and the mental battles the doctor himself deals with. There’s a good deal of humor up front, with a blind patient who finds driving on the highway therapeutic, a high school Screech-type who makes the entirely understandable mistake of confusing agnosticism with terrorism, and a good helping of schadenfreude as Rob tries to cope with not breaking up with a girl he was never really in a relationship with in the first place.
But, it’s no surprise that the world of mental disease isn’t all fear of sunshine and imagined rainbows. We also see patients struggle with loved ones who have died, accidents that should have killed them, being the victim of sexual assault, and also being the perpetrator. Some patients appear to recover fully, while others are faced with slugging through a life where the best case scenario is marginal improvement.
The writing is gripping, with an appropriate amount of gravitas, while also being self aware that the doctor doesn’t have all the answers, and that sometimes there aren’t any answers to begin with.
My only complaint is that having been an avid fan of Rob’s blog, ShrinkTalk.net, it’s clear that Crazy is merely the tip of the iceberg of what happens on and off the couch. But, as far as complaints go, being left wanting more is pretty minor. …And probably the work of some shrinky voodoo.
8 – Shelf Awareness
Working from 15 years’ experience, psychologist Rob Dobrenski (Shrink Talk) makes his literary debut with Crazy, a memoir intended to “debunk some myths and stigmas about mental health.” Dobrenski contends that the greatest myth of all is that therapists are trouble free and clients filled with problems. He wants the public to know that “in reality, we’re just like them: crazy.”
Crazy is presented as a day-in-the-life, in which each hour features Dobrenski’s treatment of a new client with a different issue. Among them are a blind man battling depression, a rape survivor dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder and a couple contemplating divorce. Chapter by chapter, Dobrenski describes his diagnosis and therapeutic approach in a casual, informative style that demystifies much of what happens when one lies down on the proverbial couch, and in a bold–if not entirely reassuring–move, he breaks from behind the screen to discuss his own experiences in therapy and the use of medication within the mental health community. Readers familiar with Henri Nouwen’s groundbreaking The Wounded Healer will recognize Dobrenski’s message: “Shrinks are people, too!”
If his extensive use of expletives is any indication, Dobrenski is determined to prove it. His dialogue and clinical definitions are sometimes clunky and didactic, but his goal of normalizing psychological problems and putting them on par with physical ailments that require medical intervention is a worthy one that makes the flaws forgivable. Crazy is a solid step in the right direction of reminding patients that treatment can be a two-way street. –Rebecca Joines Schinsky, blogger at The Book Lady’s Blog
Discover: A refreshing memoir that reveals what your therapist is really thinking.
9) Ryan Holiday
I’ve known Dr. Rob for a long time so this is not exactly an unbiased review. I will attempt to balance out my bias by admitting that I don’t often read the stuff on his site. It’s actually why I think I liked the book so much and why you probably will too. His styles seem to work so much better when read in a narrative, when consumed in “book mode” as opposed to “blog mode.” Maybe it’s that there are fewer distractions in a book, or maybe it’s that we’re more tolerant of meandering and length in a book than online. Whatever it is, Crazy really works as a book. And that’s not something I would have expected because books of essays are rarely my thing. This is so much more than that. You can also tell that Rob is not only a hell of a therapist, but an introspective, kind and empathic person. I wish my therapists had been half as good as he appears to me–if they were able to see inside their patients as Dr. Rob does does with his and to know as clearly their role as a professional, as a doctor and as a person. If you like Dr. Rob, read the book. If you kind of like Dr. Rob but rarely read his site, definitely get the book.
A few years ago I wanted to be a marriage counselor. Then I was bitten (again) by the writing bug, which has since over powered, and locked into a submission hold, my desire to be a therapist of any sort. During my “I’m going to help people with their problems!” phase, I started reading Dr. Rob Dobrenski’s site ShrinkTalk.net – I’m fairly certain I stumbled across it because of twitter, but I can’t be certain. It’s been a while. When I saw that he was writing a book, I knew I had to read it. I had been so entertained by his honest, poignant and often comical posts on ShrinkTalk, I assumed the book had to be jam packed with the same mixture of personal antics and professional experience sprinkled with a bit of sarcasm and sentiment.
“Crazy: Notes on and off the couch” is a look into the life of a psychologist. Dr. Rob takes you on a journey through his experiences guiding patients through recovery for everything from OCD to PTSD to schizophrenia. He shares stories of working with a teenager to navigate the waters of awkward adolescence, a woman struggling with the loss of a spouse, a man who has an unconventional idea on how to attain the family he’s always envisioned and a multitude of other characters that we would place squarely into the “Crazy: Do Not Touch” category, but some how, reading these trials through Dr. Rob’s perspective, you realize that we are every one of these people, at least a little bit.
You almost have the feeling that you are reading Dr. Rob’s diary. There’s an interesting mix of his personal life, laced with a fair amount of self-deprecating humor, and his professional life. In a society where we place medical professionals on intellectual pedestals, it’s a refreshing perspective. The people that help us are people too, and “Crazy” reminds us of that fact while simultaneously asserting that mental illness is real and treatable. Yes, it’s in your head – but that doesn’t mean it’s imaginary or any less pertinent. If you have high blood pressure, you treat it. If you have disconcerting thoughts – you treat it.
I rarely finish a book in one sitting these days, especially nonfiction, but this book struck me. There’s such a genuine compassion for people and authentic humor at the human condition that it’s hard not to fully immerse and enjoy every single word. You fall in love with the people he’s writing about because they are, in some small way, you. It’s impossible to close this book and not have a greater appreciation for those who are truly trying to help improve humanity.
Have you ever wondered what’s going through your therapist’s head? Or, if you are a mental health professional yourself, have you ever wondered if you were alone in your thoughts about your job? Whichever side of the couch you’re from (and as this book shows, it’s quite likely you’ve been on both sides), you will find Dr. Rob Dobrenski’s latest work to be an insightful, honest, often funny, and thoroughly engaging look into the daily life of a psychologist. In Crazy: Notes On and Off the Couch, Dr. Dobrenski uses a multitude of clients from his experience to give the reader a broad overview of the types of situations a therapist has to contend with. But this book is not a typical scholarly compendium of “case studies.” What makes this a refreshing read is that it is as much about the author’s own thoughts and feelings during the therapy process as it is about the therapy itself.
Read the rest here.
1) Shrink Rap
Rob Dobrenski, PhD. is a psychologist who blogs over on ShrinkTalk.net. He’s written a book about what it’s like to be a psychology graduate student, a psychotherapy patient, and a psychologist. Oh, we like the folks who go from Shrink blog to Shrink book — it somehow feels familiar — and so I agreed to read his book: Crazy: Tales on and Off the Couch.
So bear with me while I tell you that the book rubbed me wrong at the outset. Dr. Dobrenski begins by saying something to the effect that he describes things that all shrinks feel, and if they say they don’t, they aren’t being honest. I really hate it when people tell me what I feel. It’s like saying that Prozac made your depression better and if it didn’t, then you just didn’t recognize it. And then the book gets off on a provocative start — Rob discovers that many people in his life, from a patient, to a colleague, to himself — are “f***ing crazy.” The asterisks are mine. Dr. Dobrenski had no trouble using the word — I counted 19 times in the 39 pages, including in direct quotes of discussions he has with both a patient and one of his supervisors. Not in a million years. I wasn’t sure what the point was. To let people know he knows obscene words? To be provocative, obviously.
Somewhere around page 50, the author begins to talk about his work with a teenage boy. He loses some of his bravado, chills on the cool, dirty words, and when he talks about this socially awkward teen who keeps him jumping with his incessant questions, I turned a corner. It suddenly felt genuine, and I could feel Rob’s anxiety as he was in the room with this boy who would have made any therapist uncomfortable. Oh, plus Rob’s back goes in to spasm and he has to deal with this as he finesses conducting the session. Somehow Rob has either willingly taken on, or been thrust into, the role of being the patient’s sex educator. A little unusual, but I do think many therapists can identify with being cornered into an uncomfortable role in therapy — if not for many sessions, then at least for a few minutes.
I ended up enjoying the rest of the book and I thought he did a nice job describing his work with sex offenders and their partners. Worth the read for someone who wants a peek into therapy without actually going, but probably not for the practicing shrink.
Just a few minor details: There’s no medication called Xypreza, it’s Zyprexa, and Zoloft does not come in 10 mg doses. And finally, the peek is a peek, it’s not an in-depth examination, and it is from a single perspective.
And finally, to the guy who starts his book by saying, “Any shrink who tells you he can’t relate to what is written here is incredibly private and guarded…” I’d like to assert that eating photographs of your ex-girlfriend is really weird and is not a universal phenomena. There are some things you may be better off not announcing to the world.
- THUMBS DOWN
None yet, but they will be here soon enough.