Cathi Carol: Not a Psychologist (Part I)

Comment received from Cathi Carol regarding “Friend, or What?”

“I hope this helps:

“Take it from a psychologist: When your famous friend/therapist said ‘You can’t afford me’ and then called you when he could, that meant he was giving you free therapy. That is why he didn’t want to talk about himself, but you. Because of the way you got to know him you may not have fully understood that. He should have been more up front about that.

“His “I love you’s” were what a friend says to a friend, yes, but also what an informal (which this was) therapist might say to a patient whom they want to feel better and get better – I love you is appreciation and healing. People need to hear I love you, and warm-hearted people are willing to say it often to people whom they care about.

“He took a chance being so kind because that sort of thing can be misunderstood – that may be why he got sued. He should have been more honest about what he was offering you.

“So don’t take his behavior toward you personally. Try to understand it for what it was. He liked you enough to offer free therapy to you. He wanted to help you with what he could do for you. He gave to you of his time and empathy. He obviously felt kindly toward you. But you barely knew each other, and his behavior toward you was mainly as a therapist. Substitute that relationship in your mind for what you thought it was, and that may heal you to the point where you can appreciate what he tried to do for you.

“What happened to him – being sued, facing losing his livelihood – that is a huge, huge deal. My God. Try to feel empathy toward him rather than whining that he is not as “there” for you as he used to be! Try to be a friend to him, too.”

When Cathi Carol wrote “Take it from a psychologist,” referring to herself, she committed the crime of practicing without a license which, in New York State, is a felony for which you go to jail.  According to her blog and LinkedIn, she is an actor, writer and editor with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.  As we used to say when I was studying for the same degree, “that and a quarter will get you a cup of coffee.”  The cost of coffee has gone up since then; the value of a bachelor’s degree has not.  Carol is currently out of work.

To be a psychologist requires a master’s degree, the production of a dissertation, earning a doctorate, and passing a state licensing exam.  Carol, having not spent her time doing that, reports being “also devoted to quantum physics, astronomy, chemistry, medicine, genetics, nutrition, ergonomics, environmentalism, [and] “science” myth-busting . . .”  She appears to be a  busy lady who dabbles in reading psychology.

The requirements for becoming a psychologist in New York State run to ten pages and are available at, which begins:

“The practice of psychology or use of the title ‘psychologist’ or terms ‘psychologist, psychology, or psychological’ or any derivative thereof within New York State requires licensure as a psychologist, unless otherwise exempt under the law.

“To be licensed as a psychologist in New York State you must:

  • be of good moral character
  • be at least 21 years of age
  • meet education, examination, and experience requirements”

Take together these two things:  being of good moral character and meeting requirements.  The requirements are very clear about training under a licensed psychologist, i.e., someone who already has met the requirements.  The requirements do not say, “Oh, just read up on it and you’ll be good to go.”

The issues are boundaries and honesty.  There is no such thing as “informal” therapy.  You either are in therapy or you’re not and the therapist is supposed to make that clear at the outset.  A moral therapist will tell you what you will be charged, how often appointments will occur and if there will be any notes or videotaping, and will invite your questions about any other boundaries.  During the course of therapy, it may be appropriate for the therapist to explicitly state that he will not have sex with you.  There cannot be any waffling on that subject.  If the issue comes up, the therapist cannot let it hang without a clear statement that it will not happen.

Therapy is not friendship.  A therapist presenting at the Empathic Therapy Conference 2011 said that, as his patient was writing the check for therapy, the patient said, “I guess I’m paying you to be my friend.”

The therapist replied, “Yes, I guess you are.”  That is a bloody lie and a gross deceit.  Does anybody (with the possible exception of Cathi Carol) think that the therapist is going to stop over for beer and pizza on Saturday night?  A friend is someone who drives you to the airport and shows up to help when you’re moving to a new home.  Therapists do not do that.

Therapy is a sticky space of ambiguity.  A therapist, whether it is a psychologist or clinical social worker, is a well-educated, well-paid, licensed professional.  So are your dentist, physician and lawyer, but you would never mistake them for friends.  The difference is that the therapist is engaged in listening and talking to you, which is what your mother and your friends do.  So how is therapy different from talking to your mother?  (Particularly since I had a splendid mother who listened well and with whom talking was quite therapeutic.) 

(To be continued.)

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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