Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Shrink Is In

I have been in therapy, off and on, for about ten years now. My personal philosophy is that everyone should be in therapy at some point in their lives in order to get to know themselves better and to facilitate a deeper understanding of the subconscious. It may not be for everyone, but it certainly can't hurt, right?

The key to successful therapy is finding someone you trust, relate to, respect and can confide in. I've chewed up and spit out many a PhD. The one who has stood the test of time, however, is Dr. L. After college, I lived in Los Angeles, and was referred to Dr. L. by a friend. Dr. L. practices in Beverly Hills, is smart, insightful and reminded me instantly of of the archetypal Jewish mother that I'd grown up around. It was a perfect therapeutic fit from the beginning; I was the slightly fucked-up-but-not-hopeless-Jewish daughter she never had, she was my second, nonjudgemental, Jewish mother on the West Coast. I grew extremely close to her, and she helped me through some major life events: my first real boyfriend, my first earthquake, my first job, my decision to move to New York and go to graduate school.

So when I left L.A. for New York, the thought of abandoning therapy with Dr. L. was just not an option. And seeing how she was used to the whole celebrity client thing, being jetted out to Vegas on private planes for a single session, the notion of phone therapy was not unusual. And so it went that I came to be strictly a "phone therapy" person for the past seven years. Jeez. Seven years. Our frequency of sessions varies with time and circumstance, but over the past seven years, from New York to Florida, Dr. L. and I have remained in steady contact. She knows my family, she knows my friends, my fears, my dreams, she knows Wally. There is very little she doesn't know.

But I digress. Our relationship has always been slightly unorthodox, a little more friendly than doctor-patient. In between sessions, it's not unusual for her to call my cell to check in. Or e-mail. Or, if she hasn't heard from me in a while, it's not surprising when she calls my parents to make sure everything is okay. And, over the years, as her hourly rate has increased with inflation, the cost of gas and the sticker prices of Beverly Hills Bentleys, she grandfathered me in at her 2000 rate, a substantial discount.

Since I moved to Miami, however, I've been negligent in keeping in touch, mainly because I'm working now and am just too damn tired at the end of my day to delve into the inner workings of my rotten brain. But also because therapy is only so helpful; it's effective for a couple of hours, maybe a couple of days, but then it kind of wears off, and you're just stuck with yourself again. Wherever you go, there you are.

Usually I'd call to check in every couple of weeks, but these past couple of months, I'd been a ghost. First, she called my parents and left a message for them at home, inquiring about me and my brother. I heard the message, then e-mailed her to say "I'm fine," and that I'd be in touch. Kept putting her on my to-do list, along with the dry-cleaning, returning phone calls, getting car checked out, etc. But before I crossed her off my list, she called to check in. Left me a message about Sept. 11 and my birthday coming up. Finally, we spoke last night and scheduled a session for this week, but she wasn't letting me off the hook that easy.

"I think, Stephanie, the time has come for me to start charging your parents, or perhaps you, if you are now paying, the full hourly rate."

Oh, how the mighty have fallen, eh?

"Oh, sure, of course."

I've never been one to haggle; the Bergdorf's shoe sale and Woodbury Commons are the only discounts I like receiving. So I took it in stride, for I think we should pay the normal rate; I'm not that fucked-up, and given the infrequency of our sessions, there's no real reason for her to give me a discount. But still, after all these years, I can't help but wonder the subconscious motivations behind this step, because, after all, therapists are people too. And they are not above being human. That's what makes them good.

The pic is unrelated, but I'm digging it, snapped by a photog at an IDF event Saturday night in Aventura. Go Israel.