Friday, July 23, 2021

The Abuses of Therapy

From the annals of psychiatry and psychology, these stories are worth at least one post. Strangely, or not so strangely, psychiatry has been used to abuse people. One cannot conclude otherwise when reading the story of Martin Markowitz, patient of one Isaac Herschkopf. It reminded me of the often told story of Brian Wilson, of Beach Boys fame, and one Eugene Landy.

The Markowitz story is now being made into a television series. The story is quite simple. Psychiatrist Herschkopf invaded and took over his patient’s life. 

The extent of the invasion is impossible to believe. Preying on those who are suffering should certainly be marked down as the ultimate professional betrayal.

Anyway, Deborah Nussbaum Cohen reports for The Forward:

Imagine this: For nearly 30 years your psychiatrist takes over your life, claims your Southampton estate and your family business, as well as your Swiss bank account as his own. He buys tables at big Jewish fundraising dinners with your money. He convinces you to become estranged from your only sister and persuades you that anyone you date is after you only for your money.

It is a story almost unimaginably bizarre. But it happened, and now the saga of the relationship between patient Martin Markowitz and psychiatrist Isaac Herschkopf has been made into an eight-episode limited series starring Will Ferrell and Paul Rudd.

That’s not all:

Back then, he [Markowitz] spent hundreds of thousands of dollars a year paying his psychiatrist (in addition to the money Herschkopf allegedly took control of) and did his doctor’s bidding. That included writing and printing the invitations to the summer parties Herschkopf held at the Southampton property. At the parties, attended by many of Herschkopf’s patients —– including Gwyneth Paltrow — as well as the ‘who’s who’ of Manhattan Orthodox Jews, Markowitz served drinks, grilled kosher meat for guests and was believed by those in attendance to be hired help rather than the property’s true owner.

And also:

In 1985, again at the psychiatrist’s direction, Markowitz re-wrote his will to leave his entire multi-million-dollar estate to the foundation. 

Herschkopf was named the executor and his wife, the successor co-executor. Around the same time, Markowitz made his shrink the co-owner of his Swiss bank account, which contained about $900,000. In 1991 Markowitz again re-did his will, this time leaving his entire estate to Rebecca Herschkopf, the psychiatrist’s wife, and appointing his doctor with power of attorney.

Markowitz escaped the doctor’s clutches in 2010, after nearly thirty years:

Markowitz finally broke off the relationship in 2010 after he had a hernia operation and Herschkopf did not visit or check in on him. He soon reconnected with his sister, from whom he had been estranged for 27 years. In 2012 Markowitz filed his first complaint with the New York State Department of Health. It took them seven years to begin examining Markowitz’s claims.

Eventually, New York State banned Herschkopf from practicing medicine:

After a two-year investigation, New York State’s Department of Health this April took the rare step of stripping Herschkopf of his license to practice medicine.

New York State’s Department of Health, in its decision, found 16 specifications of professional misconduct – from fraudulence to gross negligence and gross incompetence as well as exercising undue influence and moral unfitness. The decision was based on records and testimony from three of Herschkopf’s patients. Markowitz is “Patient A.”

It has happened before, most prominently to Brian Wilson. A New York Post story documents the changes that Wilson suffered under the care of one Eugene Landy. The psychologist took complete and total control of Wilson’s life:

The movie shows:

Wilson in two different narratives; in the first, Paul Dano portrays him at his creative peak in the 1960s, as he steered the Beach Boys to artistic and commercial success with hit songs, including “Good Vibrations,” and albums such as the visionary “Pet Sounds.”

The second features John Cusack as a timid, childlike Wilson during the 1980s, while Landy (played by Paul Giamatti) and a crew of flunkies monitored Wilson’s every move and controlled his business affairs, relationships and contact with the outside world.

Who was Eugene Landy?

Born in 1934, Landy had aspired to a life in show business during the 1960s (briefly managing George Benson and producing a Frankie Avalon single) before picking up a doctorate in psychology and setting himself up as a therapist to the stars, like Alice Cooper and Rod Steiger.

Two astonishing stories, but surely not the only astonishing stories of how mental health care can degenerate into emotional abuse.


markedup2 said...

How does this happen to people?!?

I hope I'm never in a position to find out. It's easy enough to mock them from a distance, but these do not appear to be stupid people - I imagine it is rare for stupid people to have $900,000 in a Swiss bank account. SOMETHING went drastically wrong.

I can't imagine giving anyone that sort of control over my life, but I'd bet they thought the same thing.

Huh. Classic definition of "tragedy": Evokes pity and fear.

OK, I'm a bad person, but a bit of schadenfreude, too, but mainly because they are (or were) so wealthy. I'm worried about eating in retirement, not whether or not my $150/hr therapist is stealing from my overseas millions.

SgtBob said...

There is a special place in hell for child abusers, abusers of and those who take advantage of elderly people, and those who use psychological manipulation to benefit themselves and ruin others.