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Archive for January, 2012

This month’s question for The People’s Therapist gets to the heart of how psychotherapy – “talk therapy” – actually works:

Why is psychotherapy conducted exclusively face-to-face, rather than in writing?  I find that I express myself much more clearly and precisely in writing, after having had the chance to ruminate on my response — it’s one of the reasons I’m pursuing law as a career.  I’ll bet this is something I share with other lawyers and law students.  Having time to consider my response also reduces the risk that when I happen to have my precious hour in session, I’ll be guarded and not in a very sharing mood, and the hour will be unproductive for the both of us.  Having the written word as an intermediary allows me to present myself much more honestly.

Thanks,

M

And here’s my response:

To submit a question to Ask The People’s Therapist, please email it as text or a video to: wmeyerhofer@aquietroom.com

If I answer your question on the site, you’ll win a free session of psychotherapy with The People’s Therapist.
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If you’re interested in learning more about the scientific and philosophical underpinnings of psychotherapy, you might enjoy my first book, “Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy”

My second book takes a humorous look at the current state of the legal profession, “Way Worse Than Being A Dentist”

(Both books are also available on bn.com and the Apple iBookstore.) 

For information on my private practice, click here.

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At some point you have to get out of here. The question is when – and whither.

A vacation might help, if you could achieve the impossible and take one. My client pulled off a week – seven whole days! – at a Caribbean resort, only to return feeling like a condemned prisoner.

“It made things worse,” she lamented. “Now I remember the outside world.”

Sometimes it’s better to live without that distraction.

You’re in it for the money.  Biglaw creates money to toss into the maw of a bank. But no one can stand this abuse forever. Change – any change – might be good, right? How about another firm? Working in a different building – working with different people – different acoustic ceiling tiles, different vertical blinds, different sound-absorbent beige carpeting, different cheap wood veneer bookshelves, different anonymous windows to stare out… Anything different counts as change, doesn’t it?

The omnipresent worry: out of the frying pan, into…someplace worse.

Could anyplace be worse?

Isn’t that what you said about law school?

Another client took the leap and fled his firm – couldn’t take it any more. Guess what? It was worse. Two months later he was begging to return to the frying pan.

Yes – it actually happened. He returned to his old firm, proving forever there are places worse than the-frying-pan-you-know. There’s the-frying-pan-you-don’t-know.

This guy was a fifth year groping for an exit from hell. Nights and weekends of endless grind congealed into a determination – no más. Anything was better than this. This – whatever this was – was killing him.

An escape hatch appeared in the form of a nearby firm (five blocks away) celebrated for “associate satisfaction.”

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I was chased down the sidewalk by a breathless woman.

“You’re the guy who made me vegetarian!” she announced between gasps.

I didn’t know what she was talking about.

It turned out she’d worked as a paralegal, years before, at Sullivan & Cromwell.  I didn’t feel guilty about not remembering her.  We only toiled together once – a grueling all-nighter preparing for an M&A closing.

We ordered take-out burgers that night, and I opted for a veggie burger.  She asked why I wasn’t eating meat.  At first I played it down – mumbled something like “don’t feel like it.”  Carnivores can grow testy if you fail to consume meat in their presence – they take it as a personal affront.  I’ve learned to tread lightly.

But she persisted, with genuine curiosity, so I told her the truth:

“You don’t have to go there – no one’s asking you too,” I said.  “But if you do go there, you’ll stop eating meat.”

That was it.

Ever since that night, she told me on the sidewalk, she’d been vegetarian.

All it took was going there – well, having someone tell you there was a “there ” to go to, then making the trip.

No, I’m not going to spell out where “there” is – you know perfectly well and I’m not here to preach.  I’m here to talk about consciousness-raising, not vegetarianism.  Specifically, consciousness-raising around alcohol.

You know, alcohol – those lambent elixirs stored in gleaming bottles; the all-American can of beer that pops open to seal friendship and inaugurate cherished memories; the cork shooting from a pricey bottle of champagne to harken in merriment and delight.

Yeah.  Ethanol.  Ethyl alcohol.  Let’s tackle the popular mythology surrounding this stuff. We can start with what I call the Maya Angelou rule.

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I’ve been talking to people – well, my people have been talking to people – about speaking engagements, radio shows, panels – celebrity stuff – the daily fodder of The People’s Therapist’s life of fame and glamour.

One group wants me to teach a workshop for young attorneys on “health and wellness.” Well, okay. Whatever. I can do that. How much?

They offered the same course in a different city last year, using another therapist-who-is-also-a-lawyer (I wasn’t aware others existed, but I’m not threatened.) To make things easy on myself, I asked how that other (lesser) therapist-cum-lawyer contrived to occupy her “workshop.”

“Oh, she gave them a list of pointers for ‘self-care’,” I was told. “You know, get enough sleep, exercise, eat right, that kind of thing.”

Piece of cake – except I’m not sure they need me to dispense said epiphanies. Richard Simmons manages to preach an identical gospel while everyone performs jumping jacks in lavender leotards.

No matter. Giving advice is what people expect therapists to do.

It’s like “sex therapy.” Remember “sex therapy”? Be honest: Did Ruth Westheimer ever teach you anything you didn’t already know? Yet you found it deeply, mysteriously satisfying each time she chirp-chortled that phrase – “with a firm greep on dee head of dee penis.” Tearing your attention from a tiny Israeli woman in her sixties discussing penises is like trying not to ogle a car wreck. Why fight the hunger?

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