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The Sensuous Psychiatrists

Two women, who were "treated" by the same prominent New York psychiatrist, describe their experiences.

Joyce:
He said to me, "Do anything you want here in this office. It's not just speaking. If you want to do something, you can act it out. Any fantasy you can act out. Some women like to take their clothes off. Some women like to jump around. You can do anything." But I didn't feel like getting undressed . . . After that first passionate kiss I was really upset . . . I told a psychiatric resident at a hospital about it and he said, "Are you sure this really happened, are you sure you haven't blown it up out of proportion? . . . All I can tell you is, work it out with your analyst."

We would start a session and then all of a sudden I would find him lying on the couch next to me. So I finally went to bed with him. I was still paying for therapy and asked whether I should be, but very hesitantly . . . We never really resolved it . . . I know I needed him very, very badly. It was like he was God . . . I guess I loved him . . . I had orgasm after orgasm, even though he came pretty fast. He treated me like a whore, just like my fantasies, and I guess it worked—sexually. Psychologically it was tearing me apart.

I never called him except that one time he offered me a job as his secretary. Suddenly I was so depressed and upset and I wanted some help and I called him up, hysterical. "Please talk to me on the phone," and he said, "I can't talk to you now. I'll call you back." And he never called back. I went to his office, and told him I wouldn't be a patient anymore, that he'd been mean and cruel and that it's unhealthy. And he tried to talk me out of it. He said that he wasn't using me and that the psychology books I read were old-fashioned. Modern-thinking people believed the way he did. When he saw I was really going to leave, he said, "I'm warning you. Nobody will ever, ever be able to help you. I am the only doctor in the world who can help you."

The depression, the feelings, the fear got worse and worse. A fear mostly that I was losing my mind, that I was insane . . . The more upset I got, the more Librium he gave me. "But I'm upset about us," I'd tell him. And then he stopped making love to me. I was hurt. I didn't want him to make love to me and yet I was terribly hurt that he didn't. He finally told me he thought it was too much for me, that I couldn't handle it.

I was alone again—with two children, no husband and too many dishes. A couple of months later, I found myself on the floor, trying to cut my wrists. And I didn't make a mark . . . Then I tried to cut my wrists with my father's razor and finally made it into the hospital. I called him [the therapist] and begged him to get me out of there. "I'm here maybe because of you." He said "Yes. I'll get you into Creedmore."

Once in a while, when I've gotten very depressed, and very angry, I've picked up the phone and called him and hysterically screamed at him: "Why did you do that to me? You tried to kill me. Why? Why?"

Stephanie:
My therapist gave me lots of pills for my depression and weight, and insisted I take birth control pills even though I wasn't sleeping with anyone. I always thought I was ugly . . . He always kissed me goodby after a session, but crudely, never affectionately. When I tried to tell him this, he got annoyed and said, "Try to pretend you like it." But I'd go home and cry. I hadn't slept with anyone for nearly three years when I started therapy. My marriage—well, my husband was the first man I ever slept with and it ended after six months. I was never sexually satisfied.

He was always after me to lie on the couch and I didn't want to. When I finally did he would lie down next to me. I didn't want to sleep with him—I was very depressed after it happened. He didn't seem to notice that I was sad, that I hadn't had an orgasm. If I didn't have an orgasm here, then it's my fault: he's an analyst and should know what he's doing . . . All he said was, "You don't mind if I don't take you home—I've got so much work to do."

Once I screamed, a really anguished howl, and he pushed me away, got up, dressed, and said, "Don't you think you owe me an explanation?" . . . He said, "There's nothing wrong with our relationship, it's a perfect doctor-patient relationship, a perfect working relationship, and a perfect relationship as lovers." He had me typing letters for him—the same form letter for hundreds of different people.

When I got very distraught, I'd call him. He'd hang up on me a lot. Once I took a fistful of sleeping pills. He said, "Oh, it's just your subconscious bothering you, don't pay any attention to it." I would wait for him to call, and then he wouldn't. Once I waited home all weekend and when he called on Monday morning it was only to make sure I'd type his letters. I couldn't work and I felt like I was cracking up. He started to go away for weekends in the summer, after he'd promised to take me with him. I stayed away as long as I could and then when I went back he said he didn't want to sleep with me anymore but did want me to type a book for him.

You know, once we were alone together, naked, in his office. The door was locked. The bell started ringing and ringing and wouldn't stop. It rang for nearly twenty minutes. He didn't answer it. I was curious and I looked out the window. I saw it was a girl standing there crying. "That's me next year," I said to myself.

I couldn't get it out of my head. So finally I called him and asked for my money back for all the "therapy." He explained to me that when a surgeon makes a mistake the patient still pays. And I told him had he been a surgeon I would certainly be dead, but he wasn't and I'm not, and I'd please like my money back.

Phyllis Chesler is Assistant Professor of Psychology at Richmond College, C.U.N.Y.

From the author's forthcoming book, "Women and Madness," to be published in October, 1972 by Doubleday & Co., Inc. © 1972 by Phyllis Chesler.


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  • Archive: “Features
  • From the Jun 19, 1972 issue of New York
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