Therapists on a Plane

A triple coincidence: I am replying to the email of a family psychotherapist friend with whom I used to share an office. She told me she sat next to John Gottman on the way home from attending the recent AAMFT meeting in Atlanta. I told her of my similar experience seated next to UW psychiatry professor David Avery, MD who was flying home to Seattle after this spring's APA meeting. And my partner shows me the article "Cornered: Therapists on Planes" in this morning's New York Times.

First, I would like to point out that the author, Liz Galst, undoubtedly used that term I dislike so much, "therapist," as shorthand for psychotherapist. Amazing how some seem to forget the existence of all the other kinds of therapists. But, too, this betrays the misguided popular perception of all mental health professionals as givers of "advice," professionals with whom you just talk to feel better, rather than people who treat mental illness or family dysfunction.

Kudos to Galst for sharing with readers the very legitimate concern of Rhode Island psychiatrist Scott Haltzman, MD, that seemingly casual interactions with a fellow traveler might lead to a lawsuit. She found an opponent to this notion in Gregg Bloche, MD who labels this an "urban myth." I hope he's right, but judges and juries -- not authors -- decide such matters. The notion that the patient's perception of the doctor-patient relationship rules still holds sway in court to the best of my knowledge.

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