Since we now turn to computers for shopping, banking, planning vacations and building bombs, I suppose it was just a matter of time before this happened:
Therapy has gone on-line.
That’s right. For those of you who feel uncomfortable looking a therapist in the eye, you can simply log on and type in your problems. According to Time magazine, “the convenience and anonymity of the Internet beat $100 sessions on the couch hands down.”
Not to mention the parking.
Those who support on-line therapy say it gives people who are uncomfortable talking face-to-face a new way to get help. Of course, what they may need help with is talking face-to-face.
Now, personally, I’m a little skeptical of Comp-U-Shrink. With the traditional method of therapy — the kind you can’t do in your underwear — I always wondered why you had to lie on a couch with your back to the analyst. What was he doing back there anyhow? Sleeping? Eating?
Well, suspicion goes both ways on-line.
Can you imagine a typical session . . .
DOC: (Typing at computer.) Hello, Ms. Johnson. What seems to be the problem?
PATIENT: (Typing at computer, wearing old sweatshirt, eating Ding Dongs.) I feel depressed. I feel like nobody cares.
DOC: (Yawning.) I care. I truly do.
PATIENT: (Reaching for gallon of Haagen-Dazs.) You see, I’m an attractive woman, but I can’t find the right person.
DOC: (Leafing through mail.) Uh-huh.
PATIENT: (Scratching dandruff, belching.) The people at work are jealous of me. Which makes it hard to start a relationship.
DOC: (Flipping through golf magazine.) Yes, yes. Uh-huh.
PATIENT: (Putting on black lipstick and black nail polish.) They’re so snobby. They don’t give me a chance.
DOC: (Taking phone call, ordering 100 shares of IBM, still typing.) Well, people can be insensitive.
PATIENT: (Running to fridge, getting chocolate cake, resuming typing.) Tell me about it. The thing is, I’m finding myself more and more removed. I don’t know why.
DOC: (Getting message that another customer is coming on-line.) Well, that’s important. I want you to think for a moment on why you feel removed from people.
PATIENT: (Flipping on TV, seeing fight on “Jerry Springer.”) OK. Let me think
Life’s little problems
DOC: (Switching screen to new patient.) Welcome, Mr. Screwdup. How can I help?
PATIENT: (Wearing camouflage fatigues and helmet.) I’m having trouble trusting people.
DOC: (Smiling at wife, who can’t decide between two dresses for upcoming party.) Well, you can trust me.
PATIENT: (Playing with toy gun.) Can I?
DOC: (Pointing to dress he prefers.) Of course. I’m your therapist.
PATIENT: (Scratching tattoo of skull and crossbones.) Well, I feel disconnected from people. There are so many weirdos out there.
DOC: (Organizing wallet.) Uh-huh.
PATIENT: (Looking at Charles Manson poster.) There are so few people I relate to.
DOC: (Blowing nose.) Well, you only need a few good friends in life.
PATIENT: (Hugging “Star Wars” toy.) You’re right.
DOC: (Checking hair line in mirror.) How would you describe your social skills?
PATIENT: (Picking wart.) Outgoing. Friendly. I’d say I’m a people person.
DOC: (Moving keyboard over to StairMaster.) Hmm. But if you’re a people person, why are you having trouble trusting people?
PATIENT: (Scratching beer belly.) Well, this is a little embarrassing to write, but I think most women are only interested in me because of my looks.
DOC: (Starting StairMaster.) So you’re a handsome man.
PATIENT: (Picking at his pierced nose.) It’s my curse.
DOC: (Breathing heavily, still typing.) Well, Mr. Screwdup, I’d like you to think about that for a moment. Think of the masks we put on to hide our true selves. I want you to consider opening up, coming out from behind your good looks, letting people get to know who you really are.
PATIENT: (Playing handheld video game.) OK. I’ll think about that …
DOC: (Flipping back to first screen as he reaches Level 8 on StairMaster.) So, Ms. Johnson. How do you feel about what you just said?
PATIENT: (Eating Oreos, completely engrossed in “Jerry Springer.”) To be honest, Doc, there’s a lot of screwed up people out there …
DOC: (Hearing watch beeping.) Sorry, time’s up. We’ll continue next week. Until then, remember, there are a lot of good people in the world.
PATIENT: (Burping.) Really? What’s their chat room?
MITCH ALBOM can be reached at 1-313-223-4581 or firstname.lastname@example.org.