“I Love That Man”
Posted by Dr. Vollmer on February 7, 2014
Tim Gunn attributes his five-day a week psychotherapy as an adolescent, lasting for two years, a critical factor in his current success, both as a human being, and as a professional. He ends the interview by reminding the listeners that no one gets through hard times alone. We need other people. Even now, he says, when he reflects on Dr. Goldberg, his therapist, he has tears of happiness, thinking about how important that relationship was to him. Terry Gross asks him if he thinks about Dr. Goldberg now that he is a professor, and Tim quickly responded by saying “absolutely.” In this day of drive-through psychotherapy, I felt so refreshed by Mr. Gunn’s reminder to the public that the benefits of his intensive psychotherapeutic work is paying off every day, decades after the treatment ended. This long view of psychotherapy is so sadly missing from our current day notion of symptom checklists and outcome measures. As I teach psychotherapy to students from many disciplines, and as I teach psychiatric residents and child psychiatry fellows, I have this conversation on a daily basis. “We need to take the long view, and not the short view, of psychotherapy, I say, knowing that my way of thinking is slowly fading out, and newer, seemingly quicker, interventions are replacing the previously held value of long-term intervention for long-term gain. As my bright student said to me recently, outcomes are subjective and therefore not measurable. “YES” I scream loudly back at him. If we cannot measure the value of psychotherapy, why pretend we can? This is what I want to know. As I tell my students, just as insulin-shock therapy and lobotomies are a dark part of our mental health intervention history, so too, I believe, these short-term interventions will also, with time, come to be seen as terribly mis-guided.