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Archive for the ‘Thoughts and Musings’ Category

Screen Shot 2018-06-12 at 5.21.10 PMIt was my pleasure to sit down a couple weeks ago with Megan Hawksworth, of the Mastering Counseling podcast, and talk about being a therapist.  I always enjoy a chance to compare notes with another person in my field (Megan is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist) and talk shop – and Megan was a terrific host.  Screen Shot 2018-06-12 at 5.31.45 PM

Our topic was the whole notion of being a “specialist” as a therapist, which is obviously relevant to my practice, since I’m typically considered “the lawyer’s therapist.”  It’s true that I used to be a biglaw corporate associate and have written books about law and mental health and treat a great many lawyers in my private practice.  However, it’s also worth noting that I originally started out as a “gay therapist” working with HIV+ gay men in a hospital setting and then ran a large, diverse private practice as a “downtown therapist” first in Battery Park City and then in neighboring Tribeca, working mostly with area residents and folks in creative fields.  So if I’m a specialist, I’ve had a few specialties.

Screen Shot 2018-06-12 at 5.37.00 PMThe larger issue we chewed on is that every therapist, by necessity, is a generalist – it comes with the territory.  People are complicated, and diverse, and labels, while useful in some contexts, tend to blur important distinctions in others.  We’re all a lot like everyone else – and completely unique, as well.

Anyway, it’s all super-interesting grist for the mill and led to a lively discussion.  Here’s a link to the podcast.  The MastersinCounseling.org  blog, authored by Dr. Barbara LoFrisco (another therapist) is also well worth checking out.

I would be more than happy to talk about psychotherapy forever (it’s my very favorite subject), and it’s always a pleasure to sit down with a colleague and bounce ideas off one another.  This was an especially fun interview.

Don’t get me wrong – you know I love lawyers.  But everyone likes to talk to a therapist, right?  Apparently, I’m no exception.

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Please check out The People’s Therapist’s legendary best-seller about the sad state of the legal profession: Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: The Lawyer’s Quest for Meaning

And now there’s a new Sequel: Still Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: (The Sequel)

My first book is an unusual (and useful) introduction to the concepts underlying psychotherapy:Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy

I’ve also written a comic novel about a psychotherapist who falls

in love with a blue alien from outer space. I guarantee pure reading pleasure: Bad Therapist: A Romance

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hqdefault-19There’s a new place in biglaw – not always a comfortable place – called the middle. One of its defining characteristics is euphemism, particularly around job titles. Consider yourself lucky if you’re merely saddled with a legal anachronism like “Of Counsel” or “Senior Counsel” or the more workaday “Senior Attorney” (i.e., a lawyer who’s been here a while, which is apparently the best we can say for him), as opposed to that vague moniker creeping into the legal world, borrowed from finance or consulting firms, “Principal.”

The ultimate horror (though somehow preferable as middle titles go) is that now-commonplace epitome of biglaw oxy-moronicness: “non-equity partner.” Every thinking person’s initial objection to this laboratory-experiment-gone-horribly-wrong of a credential, or title, or status, or whatever it is, is that in purely legal terms, it’s nonsense. How can a partner, meaning a member of a partnership, i.e., a fundamental part of an entity defined by shared ownership – not own anything? I’ve run this past tax attorneys (the smartest of all lawyers) and they agreed to a man (and woman): This is more than a quibble – the concept is absurd.

In essence, a non-equity partner is a non-partner partner. If a partner owns nothing in a partnership, it’s not merely that the partnership is non-equitable, it’s that the existence of a non-owning partner in said partnership renders it a non-partnership. The other guys, who own stuff, have a partnership. You, as a non-equity partner, might as well be called “that guy we let work here until we decide differently” (thus, perhaps, was born yet another neologism, the term “de-equitize.”) The phrase “salary partner” only makes things worse, by sweeping less of the evident cognitive dissonance under the rug. Might as well emblazon yourself “Proletarian Viscount” or “Marquis of the living wage.”

In fairness, the whole problem began when someone needed to come up with a word for lawyers who somehow never left their firms, but on the other hand weren’t really getting anywhere, either. There had to be something better to call them than “fourteenth year associate,” which is one of those titles more apt to leave a lawyer gazing into a mirror, his face wet with tears, than crowing with pride at a firm cocktail event.

More importantly, “Fourteenth year associate” sounds bad in front of clients, and let’s face it, the entire issue of concocting these titles for folks in the middle is about appearances, i.e., what outsiders think. No one cares what you think, and everyone knows where you dwell (amid the dark and dreadful middle realm.) Law is like fashion (to paraphrase Heidi Klum): You’re either in, or you’re out (and no, the middle isn’t in, so all the more reason for clever euphemisms.)

Let’s pause for a moment and get all “big picture” about things: What lies behind this phenomenon? Why doesn’t anyone in biglaw just work hard, make “the sprint” for partner, win the big prize and get “elevated” anymore?

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Elvis-on-Camera-BoomIf you’re like me, the letters CLE, lined up, one next to the other, might not set your pulse racing.  Contemplating an hour devoted to continuing legal education, the terms that spring to mind – “somnolent,” “soporific,” “soul-crushing” – seldom correspond to the seat-of-your-pants thrill-seeking typically associated with the practice of law.

Néamoins, as we say à Paris.  Il y a des exceptions.

Imagine if CLE could be fun, gripping, in fact – an outlet for a cry of anguish from the depths of your soul – projected before your eyes as if by sorcery!  Picture in your mind a CLE that beguiles, entices, titillates…betrays even as, and what, it portrays.

I did.  And I had a vision that lit my soul on fire.

And so, in partnership with the gangsta cinematic visionaries of Lawline (including that sultry siren of the silver screen, Sarah Mills!) I crafted what can only be termed the Citizen Kane of CLE videos.

An alchemical admixture that simmers the savage honesty of Godard alongside the fragrant whimsy of Spielberg, baked en croute with a sprinkle of Kurosawa-ian poignance, “Mental Health, Substance Abuse & Competence in the Legal Profession” is an instant classic – often harrowing, sometimes hypnotic – a kaleidoscope of sound and image imbued (merci, M. Kubrick!) with the searing cry of primordial birth pangs exploding across human existence.

Don’t believe me?  Here are some clips.

I’ll set them up (since I’ll probably be doing the talk show circuit soon as word spreads and “MHSA&CinLP” becomes an international phenomenon.)

Go ahead, make popcorn, grab a diet root beer. I’ll wait.

We begin with “Understanding Depression and Anxiety in a Law Firm” – the CLE equivalent of the shower scene in Psycho:

Still with me? Need to catch your breath?

Brace yourself for “How Anxiety Works.” Remember the bicycle with E.T. in the basket, lifting off into a starry summer sky? Well, here we go again…

What to say about “How to Handle Being Trapped by Debt & Burnout”? Everyone repeats the same mantra:  ‘The Andalusian Dog” meets “Hiroshima, Mon Amour.” But press fast forward, beyond the clichés.  Film language is not about words on a page, but light, color…and, perhaps, a smidgen of je ne sais quoi.

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upsidedownhouseWe all know lawyers are pleasers. Everyone knows that. The weird thing is how it doesn’t feel that way from the inside. When you are a lawyer, and a pleaser, you don’t think you’re a pleaser – it seems more like you’re the only conscientious person in the world. You are the one who shows up on time, sits in the first row and hands your homework in on schedule, always perfect. Other people don’t, and that’s annoying. Thus begins a typical lawyer pet peeve – that other people never live up to their obligations. Stretch that out to the extreme, and you wind up doing a job where you bill 3,000 hours a year, just to set a good example for everyone else.

The odd thing is that lawyers simultaneously manage to feel a bit like imposters even as they’re pleasing, because pleasing isn’t the same thing as achieving. Achieving is an objective fact – you have accomplished something useful, good, of value. Pleasing just means you’ve convinced someone else that you’ve given them what they wanted, which might involve little more than smoke, mirrors and billable hours.

Lawyers are good at working hard, just like they’re good at racking up grades in school, which amounts to pleasing teachers. But hard work and good grades in school don’t mean you can play saxophone or or paint a portrait or write a gripping novel. It doesn’t mean you can design a computer or cure cancer either, especially since lawyers tend not to be much good at science and math (if you were any good at that stuff, you’ve have gone to med school and really pleased your parents.) Even if you are a lawyer good at science or math, it’s unlikely you’re designing computers or curing cancer because you’re probably an IP lawyer, who fled the lab bench for “money and prestige” (the magical lawyer incantation.) It’s a small wonder “imposter syndrome” thrives among lawyers. Don’t think you fooled me. We both know you aren’t really that good – you just run around trying to please everybody to distract them from the sense of defectiveness that haunts you, keeps you dancing so it won’t become obvious you’ve no idea what you want to do with your life. Everyone else seems to have somehow figured out what they want to do with theirs. Except lawyers.

So who do lawyers seek to please? Lots of folks. Pretty much everyone, except themselves.

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2d274907839718-sally-field-oscar-1985-speech-today-150217_27422441b72ca02103b8ba97bd2931d4I love prizes. Everyone loves prizes. Who doesn’t love winning a prize?

So…I am deeply thrilled (and delighted) to announce that this very blog (my blog!) The People’s Therapist, has just been named a top mental health blog of 2017 by OnlineCounselingPrograms.com.

So far, no statuette (although I’m clinging to the hope one might arrive in the mail.) But hey, it’s recognition, and I like recognition.

Here’s the list of winning blogs (there are thirteen, and they’re listed alphabetically, so yes, I’m down there near the bottom, but that in no way reflects my comparative grandeur.)  And yes, of course I urge you to take a peek at those other, dear little lesser blogs when you get the downtime.  Because I’m gracious like that.  Big-hearted.  Classy.

Anyway, here’s a nice long, special interview with moi-self, talking all about being The People’s Therapist, writing The People’s Therapist and reflecting the awesome glory of The People’s Therapist.  Please enjoy.

I want to thank Lauren Delapenha, and everyone at OnlineCounselingPrograms.com, as well as the lovely and talented rapscallions at AboveThelaw.com.  But most of all (he says, barely containing his emotion) I want to thank you, my fans.

I love you.  And now, choking back sobs, I’ll step (with immense dignity) offstage as the sound of the orchestra swells in the background.

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Please check out The People’s Therapist’s legendary best-seller about the sad state of the legal profession: Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: The Lawyer’s Quest for Meaning

And now there’s a new Sequel: Still Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: (The Sequel)

My first book is an unusual (and useful) introduction to the concepts underlying psychotherapy:Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy

I’ve also written a comic novel about a psychotherapist who falls

in love with a blue alien from outer space. I guarantee pure reading pleasure: Bad Therapist: A Romance

Read Full Post »

little-boy-reading-school-bookBlue’s Clues was a children’s television program developed in the 1990’s with the cooperation of child psychologists. The show was unique because it sought to incorporate the findings of cognitive psychology research on children into its content and presentation – a goal that produced surprising results.

What the researchers discovered in the course of their work was that children crave repetition, to a surprising degree – it comforts them. How much repetition do they crave? The results were unexpected, to say the least. It turns out most pre-schoolers are happiest watching exactly the same television show five times in a row. And so that’s what the producers of Blue’s Clues did – broadcast the same exact half-hour episode every weekday for five days in a row, every week. The kids loved it.

You might not be surprised by this outcome if you’ve ever sat a pre-schooler on your lap and read him a children’s book. You know what it’s like to finish “Thomas the Tank Engine,” then point to a stack of other books and suggest, “hey, how about we read ‘Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel’?” only to get shouted down: “No, read Thomas again!”

“But I just read it to you…”

“Read. It. Again!”

And so you do. Again and again and again until you’re getting kind of sick of it, until at last, little pre-schooler nephew lies comatose in your lap amid a spreading puddle of drool. Awwwww…how cute.

But why do kids like watching (or hearing) the same damned thing over and over again?

For the same reason junior (and sometimes senior) lawyers often do.

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looney_tunes_mad_as_a_mars_hare_-_screenshot“I don’t think…I mean…I’m not someone it would be fair to call a gunner…do you think?” My client asked, a quiver of trepidation in her voice.

“Of course not,” her therapist reassured her. Because that’s what I’m paid for.

No, that’s not why I reassured her. I did so because my client is a nice person and gunners are loathsome pariahs, denizens of the fens and low places, nothing like her at all. There might not be much that everyone in this country agrees on at the moment but we all (especially lawyers) know one truth to be self-evident, which is that everyone hates gunners and no one wants to be one.

So it’s worth posing another salient query: What is a gunner?

Part of the answer, at a law firm, is obvious – a gunner is someone who wants to make partner. That’s the whole point of “gunning” at a law firm. If you are already a partner, you’re busy doing your partner thing. But if you’re an associate, the goal is to make partner. That’s what a gunner is gunning for.

The term “gunning” further suggests, however, that you’re pointing your gun at someone else (or several someone elses) and (as is normally the case when one points a gun at someone) therefore mean them no good.

And that’s another part of the answer – and what we all hate about “gunners” – not merely that they’re gunning for (i.e., want to make) partner (we all want to make partner (mmmm…money good!)) It’s that, on the way to that goal of making partner, they’re gunning (i.e., want to eradicate) you (or anyone else standing in their way.)

That definition sounds straightforward – and loathsome – enough. But how does one actually know for a fact that someone’s a gunner, that he would nonchalantly pop some caps into a colleague’s back, then prance jauntily over said individual’s bleeding corpse in pursuit of partner-hood…as opposed to simply a hard-working, ambitious, talented lawyer on his way to success in his chosen field? Sometimes the distinction is not as obvious as it sounds.

In my client’s case, for instance, she stood accused of gunner-hood, but felt the charge was unjust. Even if I weren’t on her payroll, I’d be inclined to argue she has a point. Judge for yourself:

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