`Family’ Therapy

`Family’ Therapy – Brief Article

Gary Greenberg

When Bad Things Happen To Goodfellas

Hollywood writers have recently tapped into an unlikely new comedic archetype: the mobster in therapy. In cable TV’s The Sopranos and in the Robert DeNiro/ Billy Crystal film Analyze This (guess who played the mobster?), the hard-boiled Mafiosi tiptoe into psychiatrists’ offices, pull down the shades and pour their guts out to a petrified therapist.

Is there any truth to this scenario? To find out, we obtained (through an anonymous source) session notes from a prominent New Jersey psychotherapist who purportedly caters to underworld clientele.

9:30 A.M. Patient: Salvatore Graziano

Salvatore complains of ongoing inferiority complex after being passed over once again by Big Louie. He says he has lost the will to bludgeon, which seriously impairs his work as an insurance salesman. I ask him if he’s with an HMO, and he mistakenly thinks that I’m questioning his sexuality and storms out of the room, hurling a paperweight through my plate glass window.

Notes: Next appointment prescribe Wellbutrin. Call glass company.

10:00 A.M. Patient: Pasquale Gigante

Candy Gigante feels that her 8-year-old son, Pasquale, is being damaged by a destructive Family environment. She is afraid Pasquale will grow up to be a “button man” like his father and wants a better life for him. I engage the boy in play therapy, with peculiar results. He grabs a plastic car and proceeds to stuff dolls in its trunk. Then he draws chalk outlines around Ken and Barbie and makes Playdough cement shoes for Mr. Potatohead.

Notes: Perhaps button men are born and not made.

11:30 A.M. Patient: Al Paisani

Without an appointment, patient bursts into my office in an hysterical state. He claims I’m harboring a business associate and demands that I “cough up the stoolie.” When I refuse to hand over my confidential patient files, he pulls out a pistol and fires multiple shots at my desk, one bullet ricocheting off my nameplate and embedding itself in my beeper. He exits with all of my patient files, exclaiming, “Nobody rats out the Paisani!”

Notes: Rage issues? Install metal detector. Back up files. 2:00 P.M.

Patient: Tony Formaggio

Patient complains of negative body image which is constantly reinforced by his nickname, “The Hunchback.” He says he got the name in college, so on a whim, I ask if he went to Notre Dame. He doesn’t appreciate my attempt at humor therapy, and as he storms out, he smashes my diploma and throws it in the wastebasket.

Notes: Reread sensitivity training material.

3:15 P.M. Patient: Chris Mazzilli

Patient calls, excited, because he’s completed the exercise I assigned him last session: to come up with his own daily affirmation.

Proudly, he reads, “Lord grant me the power to whack those I can, the patience to avoid those I cannot, and the wisdom to know the difference.” I suggest he change “whack” to “slightly rough up,” subtly moving him toward positive behavior patterns.

Notes: Maybe it’s not too late for law school

4:00 P.M. Patient: Mr. Smith

Patient demands that I dim the lights and wear a blindfold during our session. He tells me of his emotional pain since entering the Witness Protection Program. He talks of guilt feelings, self-esteem issues and the fear of being paved into the New York State thruway. He now believes that ratting out the Paisani may have been the worst mistake of his life. In lieu of therapy, I recommend a one-way ticket to Mexico City.

Notes: Maybe I should go with him.

Gary Greenberg is a stand-up comic and author of Self-Helpless and The Pop-Up Book of Phobias.

COPYRIGHT 2000 Sussex Publishers, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group