Monday, July 18, 2011

Book Review: Crazy by Rob Dobrenski (ShrinkTalk.net)

Rob Dobrenski, PhD. is a psychologist who blogs over on ShrinkTalk.net.  He's written a book about what it's like to be a psychology graduate student, a psychotherapy patient, and a psychologist.  Oh, we like the folks who go from Shrink blog to Shrink book -- it somehow feels familiar -- and so I agreed to read his book: Crazy: Tales on and Off the Couch.

So bear with me while I tell you that the book rubbed me wrong at the outset.  Dr. Dobrenski begins by saying something to the effect that he describes things that all shrinks feel, and if they say they don't, they aren't being honest.  I really hate it when people tell me what I feel.  It's like saying that Prozac made your depression better and if it didn't, then you just didn't recognize it.  And then the book gets off on a provocative start -- Rob discovers that many people in his life, from a patient, to a colleague, to himself -- are "f***ing crazy." The asterisks are mine. Dr. Dobrenski had no trouble using the word -- I counted 19 times in the 39 pages, including in direct quotes of discussions he has with both a patient and one of his supervisors.  Not in a million years.  I wasn't sure what the point was.  To let people know he knows obscene words?  To be provocative, obviously.

Somewhere around page 50, the author begins to talk about his work with a teenage boy.  He loses some of his bravado, chills on the cool, dirty words, and when he talks about this socially awkward teen who keeps him jumping with his incessant questions, I turned a corner.  It suddenly felt genuine, and I could feel Rob's anxiety as he was in the room with this boy who would have made any therapist uncomfortable.  Oh, plus Rob's back goes in to spasm and he has to deal with this as he finesses conducting the session.  Somehow Rob has either willingly taken on, or been thrust into, the role of being the patient's sex educator.  A little unusual, but I do think many therapists can identify with being cornered into an uncomfortable role in therapy -- if not for many sessions, then at least for a few minutes.  
    "....but seeing a 14-year-old in a blue blazer with a crest on it, speaking like Dr. Ruth, made me feel beads of perspiration form on my forehead.    

   "Why are some people gay and some straight?"     

   I sensed that Jack's questions might be getting progressively more difficult.     

   "That's actually a question that no one truly knows the answer to...."     

   "And you, Robert? What do you think?"     

   Did I murder someone?  Am I on trial here?  Again, the rule: Do. Not. Lie. 

I ended up enjoying the rest of the book and I thought he did a nice job describing his work with sex offenders and their partners.  Worth the read for someone who wants a peek into therapy without actually going, but probably not for the practicing shrink.

Just a few minor details: There's no medication called Xypreza, it's Zyprexa, and Zoloft does not come in 10 mg doses. And finally, the peek is a peek, it's not an in-depth examination, and it is from a single perspective. 

And finally, to the guy who starts his book by saying, "Any shrink who tells you he can't relate to what is written here is incredibly private and guarded..."  I'd like to assert that eating photographs of your ex-girlfriend is really weird and is not a universal phenomena. There are some things you may be better off not announcing to the world.