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A Psychologist's Thoughts on Clinical Practice, Behavior, and Life

The Murdered California Psychologists

These killings reminded me of the past killing of the New York City psychologist (Fahey) by a colleague's patient. The psychiatrist had seen him briefly, seventeen years before. Now, the patient brought a hatchet, intending to kidnap the psychiatrist, hold him for ransom, and get his mother out of a nursing home. Fahey heard the commotion next door, investigated, and was killed, the psychiatrist surviving. Then followed much Internet hubbub about therapist safety with people stating what they did or planned to do.

One way of surviving horror is by joking about it. I afterward joked that, besides the required intake questions of whether one had suicidal or homicidal thoughts, two more questions should be asked: Do you own a hatchet? Have you brought it with you?

At a private hospital that I once worked, I lunched with a social worker and psychiatrist daily for years (the meals were free). The psychiatrist told us of a colleague at a past hospital where he had worked. The two doctors sat eating in the dining room when a patient approached and slugged the other psychiatrist, whom he had never met. The doctor was simply in the right place at the wrong time, like the murdered California psychologists.

I never tire of repeating a line said to me by a now-deceased psychiatrist who consulted for the CIA: "The unconscious is very powerful, and one must respect its power."

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