Come this summer, when a man approaches a woman in a bar and asks
for her number, she may just say, as she fiddles with her hair and dives back
into her martini glass, “Have your shrink call my shrink.”
By then, eligible New Yorkers in therapy-and, let’s face it, even
Tara Reid is reportedly in analysis over a guy-can hire licensed psychoanalysts
as the agents of their sex lives. Some New York doctors have created a new
mating game: It’s called TheraDate, it costs $2,000 to play, and it’s about as
sexy as its name implies-in other words, it’s a kind of psycho- shidduch .
Said Dr. Frederick B. Levenson, the 56-year-old Greenwich Village
psychoanalyst behind TheraDate: “Therapists are certainly more qualified to
match people up than any other kind of dating service.”
Here’s TheraDate’s credo: “We stack the deck in your favor-like
no one ever has-to help you find the right life partner.” And here’s the
function TheraDate performs: Your shrink reveals the cold, ugly truth about you
to other shrinks ( aaaugh! ), and the
patient whose issues and neuroses best match yours gets your number. TheraDate
urges you to give it three dates and-this part sounds like it violates several
federal antitrust laws-you are told to discuss the arranged relationship in
“Eighty years of research, information from your therapist-and
your prospective partner’s-and a team of experienced psychotherapists” are
supposed to bring you happiness. If you play by the rules.
Which brings us to the first rule of TheraDate: If you’re not in
therapy, you’re disqualified-not only because there is no doctor to vouch for
you, but also because the therapists making the rules think you’re probably not
ready to meet your match.
“By definition, people in therapy are interested in their own
behavior and how that behavior impacts other people,” said Dr. Levenson, author
of The Anti-Cancer Marriage: Living
Longer Through Loving . “There is more depth in somebody who is willing to
look into themselves, and whether we offend people or not, we consider people
in therapy smarter than the general public.” Specifically, you have to have at
least two months of analysis under your belt within the last two years.
Tucked into an oversize brown leather chair in his cozy basement
office on East 11th Street, Dr. Levenson said he decided to get involved in the
personal lives of his patients after rejecting the idea for 25 years. “The
women say, ‘The guy is totally unaware of his feelings, he doesn’t know how to
communicate, he keeps to himself, he doesn’t treat me properly,’” he said. “And
the male perspective is ‘She’s crazy’ and ‘Money is all they care about’ …. And
they ask me, ‘Where can I meet someone decent?’”
He said that he used to reply, “Well, where do you think you can meet someone decent?”
And typically, he said, his female clients would date bad boy after bad boy and
his male clients went in pursuit of arm candy.
But on March 18, Dr. Levenson and three other Manhattan
mental-health professionals began sending information about TheraDate to 38,000
New York therapists, asking them to present the idea “in session” with any
appropriate clients. They did another mailing to 20,000 therapists in Los
Angeles. They also launched their Web site, http://www.theradate.com, and began
running small ads in New York
magazine, Time Out New York and Los Angeles magazine.
In two weeks, the Web site received 5,000 hits, mostly from the
tristate area, and over 100 people registered in order to receive more
information, including the 10-page survey with which Mr. Levenson and a
committee of licensed or certified psychologists, psychiatrists, social
workers, psychoanalysts and counselors will evaluate daters. So far, 20
professionals have signed on to help make matches.
For a recommended fee of one regular therapy session (an average
of $150 in Manhattan), your therapist will present you as Bachelor or
Bachelorette No. 1 in the 10-page survey, which is expected to take your doctor
45 minutes to fill out. Here is how you are being evaluated: What are your
defense mechanisms? What are your personality factors? Are you argumentative?
Are you dominant or submissive? What was your family environment like? Where do
you fall in the birth order? How is your relationship with your mother and your
Having your doctor create your profile is supposed to skirt what
the TheraDate Web site calls the “efficient faking” that a client, left to his
or her own resources, resorts to when courting or being courted. “We want the
therapist to provide much more objective information than the client could
give,” said Dr. Levenson. “These are paid professionals dedicated to getting to
know the patient better than the patient knows themselves.”
The completed form will be sent to TheraDate’s headquarters in
Fair Lawn, N.J., where Dr. Levenson is on the faculty of the New Jersey Center
of Modern Psychoanalysis. There, professionals go through the forms looking for
similar educational backgrounds, religions, defense mechanisms, nervous
tics-even sensitivities to auditory, olfactory and tactile sensations.
“Similarity throughout the literature promotes compatibility,” said Dr.
Levenson. “Opposites attracting is a statistical myth.”
Then clients will be given the first names and contact
information for their potential dates.
“We are going to call them up and tell Bob about Mary and Mary
about Bob, and give phone numbers and let them call each other,” said Dr.
Levenson. So clients don’t abuse the program, they are allowed only eight
matches a year. “We are not a casual dating service,” Dr. Levenson said. “If
you want a casual dating service, please don’t bother with us.”
The idea of adding a new dimension to the doctor-patient
relationship hinges on the release form TheraDate clients have to sign before
their doctors will take the first step. But plenty of New York City therapists
think more consideration should go into it. “I don’t think that matchmaker is
an appropriate role for a therapist,” said Avodah K. Offit, a Manhattan couples
and sex therapist and author of The
Sexual Self: How Character Shapes Sexual Relationships . “We don’t know how
different people are outside the office.”
For many professionals, that’s the whole ball game. Dr. James
Williams, a Park Avenue psychoanalyst said filling out a TheraDate form would
be a “no-no” because it would “cloud the transference” between patient and therapist-the
fantasy relationship created between two people who know each other only inside
a small office where they are totally isolated from the rest of the world. “The
idea is to keep the analyst-patient relationship as pure as possible,” said Dr.
Jane Greer, a couples therapist in midtown and author of How Could You Do This to Me: Learning to
Trust After Betrayal , said, “The
way you see yourself and how your therapist sees you can be very different.”
And organizing a patient’s personal life, she said, “is contrary to the notion
of therapy, which is teaching patients how to take care of themselves.”
Dr. Offit did admit, however, to once having the impulse to set
up two patients. “I thought they were just wonderful for each other,” she said.
“They were in the same profession and they seemed to have similar attitudes,
and they were the right age for each other and they were both good-looking. As
it happened, they met each other apart from my intervention, and it was a
Dr. Greer actually did put two of her patients together. “They
were both going through a divorce, and they were both saying how isolated they
felt,” she said. “I didn’t know if they were going to be suitable for each
other or would find each other attractive, but I said, ‘I’ll give you each
other’s numbers and see what happens.’ They became the best of friends; it
could have been something else if they had an attraction.” They didn’t.
And this is where most critics skewer TheraDate. “Before you go
out with a guy, you just need to know if he’s cute, if you like him-you don’t
have to know that he had a bad relationship with his father,” said Ellen Fine,
co-author of The Rules . “They are
playing God on some level …. There is no way to tell if there’s a spark …. If
you have nothing else to do, try it-something is better than nothing-but … I
don’t love it.”
But Judith Kahn, a 44-year-old fund-raiser who lives on the Upper
West Side and works for the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services,
said a man in therapy is attractive to her. “It would indicate they are open to
the idea of working on themselves, and you would hope that in the relationship,
you wouldn’t have to convince them that therapy could be a helpful thing in
Still, she wouldn’t trade romance for it. “It’s not based on
likes, dislikes or habits. I think it’s about chemistry and a certain type of
Finding Mr. Right, she said, “is a crapshoot.”
Then again, according to Freud, “Self-love or narcissism is the
only possibility for love that most people have.”
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