The New Yorker doesn’t quite get it after all

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The contest-winning caption on the Wizard of Oz group-therapy session drawing is in.

The judges went for the cheap laugh.

“And my hourly fee is six hundred dollars. You’re not in Kansas anymore.” The winning entry is by Bill Craig of Ridgewood, New Jersey.

Mr. Craig has written an amusing caption to be sure. His victory ought to be untainted. It is funny. I am not knocking him. For all I know, he may be a professional in the field.

Unfortunately, the caption does make light, unfairly, of a serious situation.

Am I being hypersensitive and humorless? Perhaps. But the caption plays on the idea that the therapist is in it only for the money.

Would someone “pay any price” to feel better? To feel happy? Do therapists, especially group therapists, exploit the misfortunes of those who seek help?

Just the opposite.

One of the hallmarks of Dr. Stefan de Schill’s group work under the umbrella of AMHF was the economic advantage this work offered each patient.

There are six members of the cartoon group. Let’s imagine they meet twice a week. That is fifty dollars per patient. Not bad.

When group work is well led, by a professional with the gift for this work that is also well-trained, the special dynamic that emerges over a period of time can have enormous beneficial consequences.

We may laugh at the contrast of big-city Oz with Kansas, as conveyed to the frowning book characters–six-hundred bucks for an hour of listening!–but let’s remember this is serious work.

Money is an important aspect to be sure. Dr. de Schill believed that to charge nothing would function as insufficient motivation for almost any patient. It is human nature to work harder when the stakes are higher; when there is an actual investment; when one pays. But those in group sessions benefit not only from the other group members themselves, that special dynamic of self-discovery–and more to the point of The New Yorker drawing–from the reduced fees each member pays.

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