By John Bredin
It has long puzzled me why, despite its ability to transform lives for the better, psychotherapy isn’t featured more in American media. Is there an unspoken media boycott on Freud’s miraculous “talking cure?”
My wife Claudia and I, who co-produce a weekly TV show called
, decided to act and shatter this peculiar mainstream silence on psychoanalysis. On a recent Saturday, we convened an exploratory roundtable in the home of prominent psychotherapist and author, Dr. Henry Kellerman, at 43 5th Avenue—the former home of Marlon Brando and Julia Roberts (and, speaking of psychoanalysis, a place where three Woody Allen movies were filmed!).
On the panel with Dr. Kellerman was Evander Lomke, President of the Brooklyn-based American Mental Health Foundation (AMHF), which, founded in 1924, is one of the oldest and most notable psychological organizations in the world. Rounding out the panel was Dr. William Van Ornum, a Marist College professor whose focus is psychology and education.
I also took part in the conversation as an educator and thinker with a deep interest in psychology. For those not familiar with our show, what distinguishes me from more traditional “interviewers”—with their barrage of pre-scripted questions—is that I’m very present as a natural, authentic part of the conversation. Picture a cross between a talk show and a good dinner party!
So, what did we learn? Lots of things! But I’ll give you just a brief teaser here. I hope you’ll get a chance to watch the full show on TV and/or YouTube.
Dr. Kellerman taught us that psychotherapy helps patients to better cope with life. Though it might not cure our symptoms completely—any more than life itself can be “cured”—it helps us to better manage negative facets (like anger, for example). Speaking of anger, Dr. Kellerman is one of the world’s leading experts on the subject. Kellerman claims that anger results when we feel disempowered by having our deepest wishes and desires thwarted—by somebody or something. The first step in dealing with feelings of hostility is to simply identify who, or what, caused this disempowerment.
Dr. Van Ornum, citing the link between psychology and popular culture, noted how in the 1991 movie, The Prince of Tides, the psychoanalyst, played by Barbra Streisand, helped Nick Nolte’s character heal from the damage caused by his abusive father so that he could go on to live a happy and productive life.
On a more controversial note, Lomke—who champions the provocative ideas of Frankfurt School thinker Erich Fromm—suggested that there may be a political reason why the media is downplaying psychotherapy. Powerful drug companies prefer a pill-popping, more psychiatric approach over healing dialogue.
Public Voice Salon airs weekly in New York City every Thursday at 5:00pm on Time Warner 34, Verizon 33, and RCN 82. You can also view past episodes online at publicvoicesalon.com. If you like our work , consider supporting (financially) our non-profit TV show.