Friday, April 1, 2011


In the late '70s I spent five years working for a group of clinical psychologists at a local privately-owned practice.

The "boss" was a noted therapist, having written a best-selling book, having made some classical films on styles of therapy, and currently having a full, four-day week of patients. He had several other licensed clinical psychologists working for him as independent contractors, as well as always an intern or two gaining experience and hours for their MFCCs or Ph.Ds or other graduate work. I was the only "employee" and I took care of all the scheduling, insurance billings, etc. -- and for the boss, typing all his manuscripts for magazine articles and new books. It was a great job and I loved every minute of it.

Not a whole lot of funny things happened during those five years. Being in therapy was a lot of work, and more often than not there were tears, rather than laughter.

But I did have a good chuckle once. The boss maintained files on all his clients and one of my jobs was to file the notes he took during his sessions. He put each client's initials at the top of the page so I would know which papers belonged to which client.

He was an excellent therapist and I would not have hesitated to refer someone to him. However, if he had one little hang-up it was that it pained him to work with very religious clients and he avoided it if he could, but often they came to him as a referral from another client and he felt obligated to work with them. He and I had met the first time when I entered Pepperdine College as a psychology major and he was on the teaching staff. At that time Pepperdine was run as a religious Church of Christ college, and I suspect both of us had our own views of religion shaped somewhat by that fact.

When he had time between clients, he always was working on developing psychological tests or writing chapters on his book, so I had to be prepared for him to say things that didn't make much sense, at least until I found out what he was thinking about. Often I would be handed a scribbled three-page manuscript and asked to type and edit it for his next book! Anyway, one day he came out of his last session for the day and appropos of nothing announced to me that R.L. was his most boring client, C.S. was his most interesting client, B.D. was his most difficult client, and he didn't know what he was going to do with M.P. He abruptly went back into his office, grabbed his coat and left for the day.

Since no one was in his office and since my day wasn't over yet, I went in to do his filing. Sure enough, there were notes on R.L., C.S., B.D. --- and when I came to the notes from M.P., I saw what the poor doctor meant. The page looked like this:

M.P. - 5-2-77

John 14:16
John 3:16
Matthew 6:21
Luke 5:12
I Cor. 1:9
Acts 2:25
Romans 3:32
and about 25 other Bible references.

I can't remember when I've laughed so hard. I guess he earned his fee that day and I wondered if M.P. felt that she got her money's worth!


marciamayo said...

How funny and what a great job you had and did. said...

I like your story and I have to confess. I grew up in the South where religion was taught in the public schools.

So, I frequently have a Bible Reference on the tip of my tongue. They are often appropriate, like the day I told my boss we were directed to be 'stewards of the earth' with regard to an environmental issue. Dianne

Stacey said...

Grandma...that is funny. I wonder how that conversation with that patient actually went. :o)

Friko said...

In spite of having once been a catholic I have no bible references at all.

this is a very entertaining post, very well written. My only connection with psychology has been as a short-term patient and I just hope I didn't bore the poor man to tears with my small concerns.

Nance said...

I'm a retired psychotherapist and I can witness that working with pious bible-thumpers was every bit as tiresome for me as it was for your boss. It's essential in therapy to allow some tension to build in a productive session; it elicits self-knowledge and growth.

Those who looked to their religion for all their answers would typically cop out on some bible verse or worn-out homily the instant the tension started to build. It was painful to watch. And it always made me ask eventually what the client sought from psychotherapy that they hadn't already found in their religion.

That question was a real stumper every time.