How Do I Sneak Off to My Therapist During Work?

June 15, 2009 by  

advice-therapy2-featureQ:  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.

Good luck!

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19 Responses to “How Do I Sneak Off to My Therapist During Work?”

  1. DipDill on June 15th, 2009 3:04 am

    I cannot believe this dame is for real. Is this broad nuts or is she saying all this just to “fit in” with other bonzo New Yawkerz? Someone ought to take this skirt aside and tell her that it is NOT de rigeur to have both a shrink and a psychologist. I have neither, and more money in my pocket for fun, as a result. If this kook is part of the new crop of legal associates that is coming in this fall, Gawd help us all!

  2. Anonymous on June 15th, 2009 8:45 am

    Goddamn Woody Allen. Not all New Yorkers are in therapy seven days a week. Also in case you were wondering, we don’t meet up for brunch with our three girfriends every other day over cosmos to gab about shoes and Mr. Big. Grow up.

  3. Jz. on June 15th, 2009 12:31 pm

    seriously? if the questioner thinks this is how life will roll at a firm, then s/he needs a platoon of psychs.

  4. anony on June 15th, 2009 2:28 pm

    “Im going to start work at a NYC Big Law firm in a few months.” ROTFL. You’ll have plenty of time for your platoon of therapists, trust me.

  5. Alan on June 15th, 2009 6:34 pm

    She needs therapists and psychs before she starts working? Come on! What she needs most any man can provide, generally free of charge. Once a day. Get a list of guys willing to help this poor beeotch out.

  6. Southern Lawyer on June 16th, 2009 9:48 am

    I don’t know which is MORE hilarious…the question or the answer.

  7. Eileen DeBonis on June 17th, 2009 6:38 am

    I don’t think this is funny at all. A young woman already worried about her own psyche and in dire need of salvation. Yet no one has suggested proper ecumenical counseling and and she hasn’t even started to encounter the stray men in this profession looking to de-rail her career with their own emotional and physical desires. I recommend that this young woman seek religous counseling from her preferred pastor, and thereby bypass the many other male charlatans interested in doing little more than satisfying their own financial and physical needs with this young and impressionable woman.

  8. Amelia on June 17th, 2009 4:54 pm

    Where did it say this person was a woman?

  9. El on June 17th, 2009 6:28 pm

    Amelia — ha!!!! Thanks, was thinking the same thing.

  10. Wilbur Moore on June 18th, 2009 12:28 am

    Hey El and Amelia, The Sweet Hot Counsel called her “honey” and talked to her about pilates and massages as must haves. Name one man that would find any of those things desirable. It’s a chick thing, Face it, men don’t give a crap about any of that, including therapy. In fact, the only thing good to a guy about a dame therapist is if she’s a hot sex therapist who will practice on the guy what she preaches. Get it? Good. Now stop thinking up these dumb questions!

  11. Amelia on June 18th, 2009 10:49 am

    Two words, Wilbur.



    Males are becoming more effeminate in American society, and I know plenty of guys who would benefit from some Pilates, a two hour massage, and LOTS of therapy from both a psychiatrist and a psychologist. [quirks eyebrows]

    …and Wilbur, HONEY…you sound like you’re overcompensating. *comfort pat* Take a deep breath, your manliness isn’t going to be challenged on the interwebz, honest.

  12. Jessica on June 19th, 2009 2:34 pm

    Quite frankly I’m very surprised at the negative reactions people have had to this question. I don’t believe the asker seriously thinks all New Yorkers have a platoon of therapists at their beck and call; rather s/he was making a joke to ease into a serious question. It also seems like s/he has a realistic view of what life at a firm is like: i.e. no time for anything. As someone who is a 3L law student and currently attending therapy, i was looking forward to a serious answer and discussion about this topic. While the likelihood of my entering a firm as an associate in the next few years is looking less likely by the moment, when I do get there I know I will need to find a way to continue therapy. It’s not a matter of self-indulgence or ignorance of the realities of the legal profession, it’s that I know I have issues that, without treatment, could adversely affect my performance at work. Take the example above: would you have someone with a chronic knee injury stop doing physical therapy just because they moved to a new city and job? Not only would that prevent them from performing optimally, it would also effect their long term health and fitness. The same goes for therapy. Just like your body, your mind needs frequent check-ups and sometimes long-term treatment.

    I’ll step off my pulpit now and I hope I haven’t offended anyone.

    P.S. S/he probably needs a psychiatrist and psychologist because psychologists can’t write prescriptions and psychiatrists usually don’t conduct therapy. Two different doctors for two different needs.

  13. Bill on June 19th, 2009 4:38 pm

    You are pretty cool for a 3L. Let’s hope you keep this attitude up as you enter the profession.

  14. Darlene on June 22nd, 2009 11:21 am

    I completely agree with Jessica’s comments. It is possible to repress everything in order to get through your first years of Big Law, but that just means more work returning to your authentic self when everything breaks down. Whatever you do, find a way to continue to see your therapist regularly. You’ll be working for people with extremely dysfunctional perspectives about what matters in life, and the person who sees a therapist is NOT the crazy one.

    If possible, add a coach to your team–one who can help you tailor your strategy to the specific personalities you find yourself dealing with. Coaches are very practical. They help you with the here and now and getting you to where you want to be. There are coaches out there who have had experience in the legal world and therefore understand exactly what you’re dealing with.

    I balanced therapy and Big Law for 6 years, but I made a lot of mistakes along the way, including overuse of the “doctor’s appointment”. Substance abuse and depression are common among lawyers, but no law firm human resources department is going to give it the serious attention it deserves during orientation.

  15. Kari on June 23rd, 2009 3:16 pm

    Well, it would seem after seeing the initial reactions to your post is that your best bet would be to find someone who can see you on weekends or late evenings. You are going to a rather unsympathetic job environment and you must adapt accordingly.
    It is totally possible to find someone with weekend hours in NYC. Another option to consider is to continue to have sessions with your current ‘team’ via phone (same fees apply as a regular face to face session). A lot of psychologists and psychiatrists are willing to have sessions over the phone; especially if you have been seeing them for an extended amount of time. Again, if they have hours that are not overlapping with your work hours pick those.
    You are going to have to prove yourself in your first 6 months to a year there. Meaning: Do not under any circumstances bring your non-work issues to work. You need to focus on proving to your new boss(es) that you were the absolute right hire. Try to avoid making situations like ‘sneaking away’. People will notice and they will not like it. Given time you may find opportunities for greater flexibility-just don’t expect them right off the bat.
    This being said-your health is your number one priority. You will never be able to function at your best level at your job if you are not taking care of yourself. Don’t be afraid to try out several different shrinks if you don’t like the ones you first find.
    There is nothing wrong with seeing therapists. It doesn’t make you weak or bad or not good enough. However, when you are at work you have to professional. How much you should reveal to your co-workers when it comes to mental health is up for debate. Different offices and different fields provide many different levels of compassion and understanding. Overall though, Big Law is not a compassionate work environment. So you have to look out for yourself and keep these particular issues away from work as long as you choose to work there. That’s just a matter of fact, you can’t take it personally, like the same way you can’t wear flip-flops to your new job either.
    Realize that should you want to find a job where you can go off to your therapist mid-day (or wear flip flops),you can and if that’s what makes you happy/comfortable/sane, it says absolutely nothing about your aptitude or capacity for hard work. You are making a choice to enter Big Law and you have to follow their rules and their culture.

  16. Li Yuan on June 23rd, 2009 11:02 pm

    I agree completely with the women above. It is so refreshing to read the intelligent comments the women on this site have (for a while I thought I was the only one with insight), while the male lawyers are very coarse, if not base, in their commentary. I feel that there is hope for those who seek out professional counseling, and encourage the inquirer to persue this, if not during work hours, then after hours and on weekends.

  17. NJ on July 8th, 2009 12:35 am

    This is easy. You tell HR you have a regular medical appointment you need to keep, and you go. If someone has a problem with it, refer them to HR.

    A quarter of your partners likely are in therapy, and the others likely should be. People accomodate these kinds of needs all the time. And big law is actually fairly easy to navigate if you’re reasonably upfront and have a spine. Which, sadly, is rare.

    Or, as the various posters suggest, you could just duck your head between your legs and search for happiness in the sand beneath your feet. Good luck with that. Watch the Conformist if you need a reminder as to why that’s a bad idea.

  18. Employment Lawyer on January 16th, 2010 11:59 am

    Have you heard of the ADA? Easier than ever to go to HR, tell them you need 1-2 hours off in the middle of the day once per week as as “reasonable accommodation” for a serious medical condition, and that you’ll make up the time elsewhere. If they don’t let you, you have an EEOC claim for disability discrimination. Sure it could side track your career, but…

  19. LawyerNYC on January 18th, 2010 8:40 pm

    Perhaps I’m thread-jacking a little, but really? I mean, I have a hard time believing that you all are so short on time given these lengthy diatribes (that’s directed at both the author of the post and those commenting so negatively). I call bullshit. Moreover, it’s a legitimate question for someone who has never worked in BigLaw before to ask.

    I also think the “de rigeur for a lot of New Yorkers” is the asker’s attempt at a little self-deprecating humor.

    Also, more careful proofreading on SHJ, maybe?

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