Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Worst Mother in New York, via Therapy

Score another one for therapy. Dara-Lynn Weiss’s therapist has helped her to earn the title “New York’s Worst Mom.”

Here’s the story.

Weiss’s 7-year-old daughter Bea was overweight. Weiss was distraught so she decided to solve the problem by putting Bea on a diet and telling the story in Vogue.

Nothing like a little humiliation to spice up your diet.

Weiss was not sure about whether she should include a picture of Bea in her Vogue spread so she, prodded by her husband, asked her therapist for advice.

The New York Post reports his reaction:

“His response was quick and definitive. The magazine article must be written. The book, too. The issue was an important one . . . However, Bea should be left out of it, he said. She should not collaborate on the book, as I had considered. And she should not appear in the Vogue magazine photo. This was my work; Bea should be kept separate from it.”

Apparently, this therapist, more concerned about the “issue” than about the fact that his patient and her daughter would be held up to public ridicule insisted that she expose herself in the pages of Vogue.

It’s called martyring your patients for a cause.

By exposing the story Weiss would not only be shaming her daughter, she would also have to tell the world about her own eating disorder.

You see, Weiss had her own history with food. Rather than keep it private and teach the value of discretion, the therapist counseled moral exhibitionism.

When young Bea learned of the therapist’s decision she reacted badly, so Weiss decided to allow her daughter to be part of the photo-shoot.

The result, via The Post:

So Weiss shamed her daughter as fat in the pages of a national magazine, held the child — and herself — up to ridicule and scorn. But at least she got that book deal. “The Heavy” hit shelves last week.

Don’t expect a mea culpa.

Now, Weiss feels badly that she allowed her daughter to appear in Vogue. For reasons that defy reason, she regrets not taking her therapist’s advice.

Let’s attempt to clarify this muddle.

In the first place, the therapist recommended strongly that Weiss go public with a story that would make both of them look bad, thus damaging the emotional well-being of both of them.

This is grossly irresponsible, but not very surprising.

Second, the therapist advised keeping the daughter out of the story.

Nice thought, but as long as the mother’s identity is revealed in Vogue, the daughter’s identity could not have been kept secret.

It does not require an advanced degree to figure this out.

Besides, don’t you think that the Vogue editors would have had an opinion in the matter? Do you think that they would have accepted the story with only a picture of the mother? What would the therapist have said if they had told Weiss that it was either both of them or neither of them?

The therapist’s advice, in other words was not only damaging, it was intellectually incoherent.

Third, Weiss concludes that she should have taken the therapist’s advice.

This shows us how therapy fails to teach people to think clearly. In truth, she did take the therapist’s advice.

When the therapist insisted that the story be written, because it was important for her to humiliate her and her family, he added that it was her work and not her daughter’s. 

But, her daughter’s weight loss was her work. It would be helpful if the therapist, at the least, could think straight. The therapist was pulling a classical therapist trick. By having it both ways he was cleverly avoiding all responsibility.

Weiss would have been called “New York’s Worst Mom” regardless of whether her daughter had been with her in Vogue, so, as a said, score one for therapeutic ineptitude.


JP said...

"You see, Weiss had her own history with food. Rather than keep it private and teach the value of discretion, the therapist counseled moral exhibitionism."

However, you have to get enough knowledge into the general public.

For instance, it would have been nice to know that there were such things are mental illness and what they look like before getting tossed into college with people who were, in hindsight, mentally ill.

I still have no idea what "mental health" looks like.

Granted, I know what OCD, major depression with psychotic features , agoraphobia, etc. looks like because I now deal with it all day.

Part of the problem is that we don't really know how prevalent these problems are or how to deal with them in our friends and neighbors.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I'm afraid that the general public has too much knowledge about things like eating disorders. Ethan Watters has a book, Crazy Like Us, that shows that at one time there were no anorexics in Hong Kong. Then, the press decided to publicize the death of one anorexic, and before you knew it there was an epidemic of anorexia in Hong Kong.

Also, the therapist was telling this women to submit herself and her daughter to public humiliation, unnecessarily. I cannot imagine how that is going to help anyone.

And then, to outsiders it's going to look as though Weiss is being rewarded for her exhibitionism... which is not going to discourage them from contracting the same illness and dealing with it in the same way.

JP said...

I'm not disagreeing that this was an inane thing to do and really didn't have any benefit to anybody in this particular situation.

I was speaking more generally.

And yes, once there's money at the end of the rainbow, some people are going to chase it.

Sam L. said...

Will the therapist be censured by his/her professional organization?

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Not a chance... they all would have done the same thing.

CatherineM said...

Stuart - As a teenager I learned my anorexia (Cherry Boone) and bulimia from self help books meant to expose the disorders to help people.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thanks Catherine. It is always good to remind ourselves that exposing too much about mental afflictions produces as many problems as it is supposed to solve.

In Ethan Watters' book, Crazy Like Us, he writes about how young girls in Hong Kong did not know anorexia until the media decided to go on a crusade about it... then they had an epidemic of anorexia.