Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Monte and Marla: At it Again

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on August 26, 2010

  Two o’ clock in the morning  Monte , wakes up, as if invaded by aliens, knows what he wants to do about his troubles with Marla; call Beatrice, Marla’s supervisor. The thought, mysteriously enters Monte’s mind,  seems like such a sensible thing to do. Maybe if Beatrice knew that Marla’s behavior was defensive, inappropriate, and hurtful, then maybe Beatrice could help Marla regain some traction with Monte. Oh, Monte thinks more deeply. By calling Beatrice, he is making  some assumptions. Monte knows that Marla goes to Beatrice for consultation, but he cannot assume that he is the topic of conversation. On the other hand, maybe he is. Monte goes back to sleep. A few days pass, Monte leaps forward; he emails Beatrice, sheepishly, but he does it. Beatrice responds in a kind and sensitive manner saying “I acknowledge receipt of your email. I hope you are well.” Wow, Monte thinks, that went well. Monte breathes relief.

     Monte, a middle-aged psychoanalyst similar to Aaron Green, has looked to Marla for help with his practice, his interpersonal struggles, and his existential questions. The complicated nature of working in a helping field makes getting help from a therapist/colleague different from it is for lay folks. Monte envies his non-therapist friends who can go to a therapist and then not see them again at a professional meeting or seminar. The overlapping roles of patient and colleague can deepen a relationship, but it can also create a crevice of unsettling feelings. Monte has a large crevice. Calling Beatrice settled Monte down for a bit; momentarily Monte could feel hope that this crevice might shrink.

    Weeks pass, Monte calls Marla. They agree to talk at 3:00 pm that day. An hour after they make that arrangement, Marla calls and said she made a mistake; she has a client at 3:00 pm. Monte is aware, yet again, there is no apology; just a statement of  fact. Marla has no time to talk about it. In an angry voice, she says “gotta go”. Monte is brought back to that feeling of being an open wound. Marla lets Monte down, but somehow Marla is the one expressing anger. Monte decides to let it go; he is not going to talk to Marla. Thirty minutes later, Marla calls apologizing for not being able to talk at 3:00 pm and apologizing for being hasty on the telephone. Monte’s unsettled feelings are now making a bigger crevice. He could attempt to call Marla again, or he could let it go. Either way feels bad.

6 Responses to “Monte and Marla: At it Again”

  1. Shelly said

    Monte needs a therapist to help him deal with Marla. Seems like all his energies are spent thinking about Marla. It is unfortunate that they both work in the same profession and meet in a professional capacity, but Monte seems “stuck”.

    Is that what you would recommend?

    • Shirah Vollmer said

      Maybe. Monte’s dilemma is that any therapist he sees is both his colleague, a colleague of Marla’s and a colleague of Beatrice. Monte is stuck because he could accept the disappointment with Marla and move on, or he could engage in another therapeutic relationship and risk another Marla situation, or he could try to work things out with Marla. The last option appears to be the worst, but in some ways it is the simplest. So, I am not sure what I would recommend. I think that I would suggest to Monte that before going into therapy, he seek consultation about what his next step should be. Therapy would be one of the options.

  2. Kristin said

    What’s happening with Monte’s patients through all of this? Does his obsession with Marla consume so much of his mental energy that his own patients are neglected? Or has he become more mindful of his own slights towards his own patients as a result of his experience with Marla?

    And how does he know who Marla’s supervisor is? Is that generally common knowledge? And why does he think that Beatrice’s email is kind and sensitive? It seems like Beatrice blew him off completely!

    You mention “consultation” in your response to Shelley. What is that? Is that something that is open to regular people before they decide whether to go into therapy?

    Finally, I’m curious about Janet Malcolm’s take on this story. Is she using it cast a negative light on the characters involved (and by extension, the whole field)? Or does she have a neutral take on it? It is such a twisted story. Isn’t she known as having a vendetta against psychoanalysts? I vaguely recall that she was accused with making up quotes in her New Yorker articles about a psychoanalyst. Was this Monte?

    • Hi…I don’t understand the question. Monte as a therapist is different with each client, and as such, there is not a simple answer to your question. Clearly, each experience adds to his therapeutic skills, but you are right that events which consume his mental energy could be detrimental to some of his patients. does he know who Marla’s supervisor is…that is a good question…..he found out incidentally…..Beatrice was kind in that she could have not acknowledged Monte’s email, but she chose to recognize it as existing.

      When one is stuck, therapy may or may not be the answer. A consultation is a first step. Of course it is open to “regular” people.

      I think Janet Malcolm is an observant of the field, while at the same time she may have her own agenda. That is not clear to me. I also vaguely recall that she made up quotes also. Is Monte Aaron Green? No, but she was on to a phenomenon in the field which Monte could relate to.

  3. Suzi said

    I don’t know. I just don’t know. There has got to be some way to bridge this impass but I don’t know how.

    Really fun but frustrating story though.

    Well done!

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