Saturday, July 28, 2012

My own experience from the distant past: communications with therapist are strictly private

There has been some scuttlebutt in the news recently as to whether psychiatrists  (university or private) should contact law enforcement when they suspect their patients will do something dangerous.  Of course, some of this came from the revelation that the Colorado suspect James Holmes had seen a therapist at the University of Colorado.

I won’t get into speculation about this specific story (a lot of facts, some under court protection, remain to come out), but I do remember being told by a private therapist in 1964 that the “doctor-patient privacy privilege” was absolute, no matter what fantasies the patient reveals.

That session of therapy had occurred on the backside of a period of inpatient therapy at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center during the latter part of 1962, after my “William and Mary expulsion”. I see that I discussed this episode here on Nov. 7, 2008.  The NIH inpatient therapy was not as protected, as it was used for “research” and could be shared with my parents, in family therapy and “family art therapy”, which my parents hated.  My own father wound up going to see a private therapist to find out how to deal with all this!
I will add a couple other things to the mix.  I think my difficulties would have been much less had the expulsion (discussed Nov. 28, 2006) not happened.  A roommate separation could and should have been arranged instead.   I have been impulsive in making decisions, however.  I started my first wage-paying job at age 20 at the National Bureau of Standards in a rheology lab in mid 1963, going to GWU at night. 
Nevertheless, in October, I dropped Organic Chemistry suddenly and changed majors to mathematics, after getting behind in lab after cutting my hand in an accident.  There were no second chances in those days.
Graduate school (at the University of Kansas) starting in 1966 did prove to be an academic challenge – the exams were “harder” as the solutions to exam problems were “harder to motivate” (as a contemporary friend put it). But I learned the ropes and got better at things, and finished my Masters in early 1968.  I remember that I stumbled in the Masters oral, and was asked to prove a bizarre theorem (one of Liouville’s) which has become controversial today with physicists. 

The Army would follow –  I grew up in an era of the draft and relative social duty – and of deferments.  I wound up duly sheltered from the risks of combat. 

But I do see my own “coming of age” as a precarious experience.

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