Inside The Minds, And Offices, Of 15 Psychotherapists
Sebastian Zimmermann’s photo series Fifty Shrinks takes us inside the minds of psychotherapists in New York.
Sebastian Zimmermann is a photographer and psychotherapist based in New York and spent 13 years producing Fifty Shrinks.
"After a few photographic sessions, I understood that, for a more fully realized portrait, I would also need to include the many fascinating conversations I had with the psychotherapists ... These are private offices that people don’t generally see.” –Sebastian Zimmermann
"I have been an analyst for more than fifty years and I still find it astounding that every patient has something new to communicate. Sometimes I’ll encounter a patient who has so much to convey that it’s bewildering. It is as if an analyst is living not only his own life, but also the lives of countless other people. So I think I am making a bargain with death; I am cheating. I am living more than one life." –Martin Bergmann, Ph.D.
“'I imagine a world in which we can change the scale of measurement, not asking what can be hoped for—always an object of calculation—but only ever asking, from where do you hope? Where do you fall down? We all are falling,' wrote Rilke in his poem Autumn, leaving us with a final question: 'Is there one whose gentle hands hold up all of this falling?' This is one of the most powerful questions addressed to psychoanalysts by their patients, as it was addressed to the priests before, in a time when the Creator was thought to hold all in these hands." –Jamieson Webster, Ph.D.
"There are patients who may start off picking bones with this or that part of my office and why it is that way and what it means about me. One said it was like being in her psychotic mother’s insides and she could not stay and work with me. Another found something wrong with the chair and felt if I could not care for a chair, how could I care for him? Sessions can be magical; mood is everything, transforming inner and outer surroundings. Feeling takes precedence and creates worlds of its own ... Many have a hunger for a special kind of contact. It may be our world is starved for it." –Michael Eigen, Ph.D.
"I have recently been using EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) as part of my treatment. EMDR theory holds that when a person suffers a trauma, the disturbing memories become trapped in isolated neural pathways of the brain with all the original imagery, beliefs, emotions, body sensations, and sensory stimuli." –Pamela Thorp, LCSW
“We create the depression and anger we feel by demanding that the universe not be as rotten as it is. The reality is that the whole universe is not rotten nor is all of life rotten. Only certain elements of it are. Accept that along with many good things, bad things exist, change them if you can, and accept what you can’t change. Remember it’s your thoughts that create the way you feel. It’s practically never hopeless. Acceptance is the key.” –Albert Ellis, Ph.D.
"Upon returning to New York from a visit to the Jung Institute of Zurich I had a series of dreams of a woman entwined with serpents that I interpreted as a portent of my need for self-transformation. This corresponds with Jung’s own interpretation of snakes as the harbingers of change. In one of my dreams, a voice commanded me to sculpt these images. I had never before made anything in clay but I listened to my unconscious and have continued to create art to this day. I keep several examples in my office of both my sculptures and paintings." –Maria Taveras, LSCW
Dr Otto F. Kernberg
"I mostly treat patients with severe personality disorders where all the adaptations and social interactions of the individual are disturbed. The core symptom is called 'identity diffusion.' It refers to people’s inability to integrate their concept of self in relation to others." –Otto F. Kernberg, MD
Kirkland C. Vaughans
"My taste is for African art that comes from my Afro-centric perspective. That’s a part of who I am. If a white analyst puts African art in her office, it is perceived as nothing more than good taste. When I choose to display African art, it is interpreted differently, more personally, as an aspect of my identity, which is also true. I can imagine that to some new black patients, their first reaction might be: 'I want to get out of here. This guy has his black self right up front and out there. I don’t want to deal with the black part of myself. I’d rather go to a white analyst.' In a way, I’m challenging those patients to respond. It opens the dialogue where I can say, 'Okay let’s see what we can do with that response,' and then the real therapeutic work can begin." –Kirkland C. Vaughans, Ph.D.
Dr Marsha Rosenberg
"I have a reputation for being able to work with very difficult patients who are referred to me by other practitioners when they cannot handle them any longer. Some of these people are very angry individuals who are quite isolated from society. For example, I was seeing a highly intelligent but aggressively hostile woman who screamed at me every session and even threatened to spill her coffee on my sofa. When I asked her to lower her voice, she yelled, 'You are my psychiatrist. You need to let me scream at you. That’s what I am paying you for!' She had never realized that she scared off people—few had ever confronted her." –Marsha Rosenberg, MD
William L. Salton
"I once evaluated a boy whose eyes lit up when he saw my castle ... He constructed a whole drama of what goes on in the grand hall versus what goes on up in the towers ... One of the knights had a drinking problem. In the grand hall, this knight was very, very careful to have just one goblet of wine ... You see, what goes on in the towers doesn’t represent the actual figures in the boy’s life; it corresponds to his fantasies. It isn’t real. Children who are traumatized don’t reenact these things word for word, scene for scene. They reenact them in the affect ... The child is the director and I’m the producer." –William L. Salton, Ph.D.
"After the 9-11 attacks, I was called in to consult for the Mayor’s Office to assist moving the city on with mourning ... It was emotionally very overwhelming. One night, I had an extremely disturbing dream. I have a dollhouse in my office, and, the next day, I found myself doing play therapy in between patients. I was setting up, feeling very hopeless, and moving the furniture of the dollhouse around. Then, I brought in my pinhole camera and started taking 45-minute exposures ... I was making images, trying to cope with what I was feeling. It was self-treatment. There was a lot of talk after 9-11 about how therapists were going to deal with what they witnessed ... My art has always been my therapy." –Donna Bassin, Ph.D.
Dr Steven J. Lee
"During my training, I had a depressed patient who had relapsed several times on cocaine. One of my supervisors told me that I couldn’t help him until he was serious about staying clean. But he failed to understand that this patient was already serious about staying clean. That’s why he had come in to tell me that he had started to use again. He needed more treatment, not dismissal. Seeing addiction as not so different from high blood pressure let me replace frustration with patience. And I’ve found that just like people with high blood pressure, addicts really do get better." –Steven J. Lee, MD
"The offender was a teenager who stalked, raped, and beat a 71-year-old woman to death with a hammer. He then proceeded to her living room, where he grabbed a snack and watched television. At some point, the teenager performed CPR on the victim and even dialed 911 but hung up before an emergency operator answered. The offender was caught because he had made no attempt to retrieve a medical appointment card that had tumbled out of his pocket during the crime. I don’t believe his case was one of a criminal’s bad luck. In my experience, there is more to the states of consciousness that attend violent crimes." –Abby Stein, Ph.D.
Albert J. Sbordone
"When the boy is gay, the father picks up cues that his son is different from other boys. But the father will still probably try to engage him in his own traditional boy interests from when he was the same age. Often that’s not what the gay boy wants to do. They just don’t toss a football around usually. So the father can feel rejected, confused, perplexed, any number of things, and as a result moves away from the boy. The boy will notice that the father has an easier time with his brothers or other boys who are more like the father. The son begins to feel that something is wrong with him. A rift develops between father and son." –Albert J. Sbordone, MSW, Ph.D.
Dr Robert Porter
"In 1943, I worked as an Army intern at Saint Elizabeths Hospital, a big warehouse, in Washington, DC. In those days, we were still using insulin coma and electroshock therapy. I also scrubbed for a few lobotomies. I was in the operating room lining up leucotomies, drilling burr holes in the skulls. It was a drastic procedure, but we were faced with a lot of unremitting, terrible depression, and we didn’t have any good medicines then. One time, they brought Ezra Pound, the poet who was pro-Nazi. They said he was crazy, but they wouldn’t touch him. He was too famous." –Robert Porter, MD
The book Fifty Shrinks is available for purchase on Amazon.