How Do I Sneak Off to My Therapist During Work?
June 15, 2009 by Sweet Hot Counsel
Q: I’m going to start work at a NYC Big Law firm in a few months. As part of the move to New York, I’m going to have to find a new psychiatrist and psychologist. I understand that having a platoon of mental health professionals is de rigeur for a lot of New Yorkers—I’m just trying to fit in. So I’m not asking for recommendations as to particular therapists (at least until I know more about my health insurance options). Rather, I’m wondering how I should sneak away from work to do this? I assume most therapists have some limited evening availability, but I bet I’m not the only lawyer with this problem. Is competition for an evening slot cutthroat? Also, I feel like I can only ask my secretary to cover for me for so long. Even if I found a psychologist I really liked, who was really close to the office, we’re still looking at an hour and a half of limited ’berry access, plus another hour of sitting at my desk seething with hate for my mother afterward. That’s a long time for my secretary to pretend I’m unavailable in a meeting.
A: Let’s make a quick list: (1) two-hour-long deep tissue massages, (2) long weekends in the Napa Valley, (3) reading the Sunday Times over a steaming hot latté, (4) Pilates, (4) sex, (5) sleep, (6) joy. These are the first few items on the List of Things You Will Never Again Have Time For If You Are a Big-Firm Lawyer. And I hate to break it to you, but wedged in there somewhere between, say, Pilates and sex, is therapy, psycho- or otherwise.
Look, despite how many Woody Allen movies you may have seen, not every single New Yorker has time for therapy (although, sadly, the ones who don’t probably need it the most). It’s great that you’re trying to keep your mental health under control as you slide into your new life as a Big Firm lawyer, but I have to tell you, if mental health is high on your list of priorities, you are entering the wrong damn profession, honey. That said, if you’re going to hold on to the hope that you’ll be able to maintain a relationship—well, period, but a relationship with a new therapist, specifically—there are definitely a couple of things you can try to up the ante for success.
First, obviously, look for a therapist with weekend hours. They’re out there; this is New York. Failing that, though, you can try to make a standing weekly appointment with one on “evening hours,” as you suggest, but as you’ll quickly realize, 7 p.m. is roughly the equivalent of noon at a Big Firm in terms of “end of the day” and 9 times out of 10, you’ll wind up having to cancel. Now, sure, you can try to pull the “medical appointment” bit, but that gets old quick and you don’t want people thinking you have some sort of frail constitution or weird medical ailment.
Your best bet is to aim for aim for the earliest morning appointment you can get and get to the office as soon as possible. Do not tell your secretary where you really are—yet another thing you’ll soon realize is that your secretary is not your friend and her primary concern is to cover her own ass at all times, not yours. Do tell her, though, along with anyone else who asks, that you’re at ongoing physical therapy for the non-disease-like injury of your choice—a bum back, sciatica or knee-related injuries work well. Just pick something that’s not self-indulgent and most importantly, threatens your ability to get yourself to the office if not treated.
If you keep a low profile and maybe limp a little around the office now and then, you should be able to keep a steady line to your therapist for a least a few months, if not longer. And if you do get busted, remember the silver lining: After a few months of working in Big Law, when it comes to sitting at your desk seething with hate over the players in the tortured theatre of your life, dear old Mom will be nothing but a distant memory.
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