My Two Scents

Or an alternative title might be, If He Smells Good. . .

It's easy to think that a therapist like me who has an obvious bias (family therapy) might judge other kinds of therapists. But in fact, that's not true.

Like I've said before, a dodo bird is a dodo bird is a dodo bird.

All kinds of therapy docs have been found effective with all kinds of problems. Even though cognitive behavioral therapy is the darling of the National Institute of Mental Health (in combination with psycho-pharmacology for depression) if you have a doc who can speak in full sentences and knows when to shut his or her mouth, you're probably doing okay.

That's the verdict on psychotherapy. If you get someone with a good bedside manner who doesn't come on to you, the process will probably help. Won't cure you of anything, necessarily, but you'll feel better if all you have to do is spill your guts to someone.

And then, there are the obvious quacks.

I have a great story about how I got into aroma therapy, something I'd consider quackery if I hadn't experienced it myself, but have to save it. Suffice it to say that now I do recommend scents, basically as an adjunct intervention (not to replace therapy), something to help raise the senses. To get you outside of your head.

Anyway, today I was standing in shul (synagogue, if you're new here), not thinking about anything in particular, listening to the cantor's repetition of prayers the congregation had already said to themselves. Probably one of the primary reasons people like to go to shul or church or whatever is to space out while someone else is doing the real work for us. It's sublime to sit back, absorb the atmosphere, pretend to listen. Even to pray. Chill, as the kids say.

So I was emptying my brain, feeling a little bored. Face it, everyone does. And it occurred to me that my perfume wasn't very interesting anymore. (Onella, okay?) I have two basic scents and it's an autonomic thing, shpritzing one on before I go out on Saturday to the synagogue.

There I am thinking that I'm bored with Onella and should have put on the Sensi (Georio Armani) since I've noticed this before, not being sure I even LIKE Onella anymore, when I remembered a case from years and years and years ago that you'd like to hear about, for sure.

A great looking guy wore a wonderful aftershave, and he wore it really strong. It was even a little strong for my taste, and I can take a lot of good aftershave, but I got used to it. Anyway, I knew he had a problem with alcohol and I asked FD about it and FD said, Well for sure he covers the scent of alcohol with the cologne.

Thought so. And yet, the patient was a very sensuous guy, and one of the things he complained about was his wife's lack of sensuous sensitivity, blah, blah, and I wanted to believe that the guy really just liked to smell good. But at some point he admitted he really did have something of a problem with alcohol, but it wasn't a very BIG problem, and he only got drunk when he was depressed. So could we work on that?

It's your nickel, friend. Not what I'd recommend, but let's see how far we go.

Not far. He dropped out of therapy, missed his next appointment, but came back a few months later to tell me how he had had a critical moment, a life changing event, what we might call a "hit bottom" story. Everything, everything, everything went wrong one day and he wound up in a hospital. He realized he had to quit drinking, and he did.

It was then that I noticed that the room didn't reek of his cologne. And ironic part of it was, of course, that I knew how much I'd miss it. When people get better you know you're going to miss them. But usually it isn't their scent.

And the kicker? I couldn't even say, "So tell me. . . what was it you used to wear? What was the brand of that aftershave?"

There would have been absolutely nothing therapeutic about that question and it could have even sent him back a ways.

Sometimes it's hard being ethical, seriously.

ethically yours,


Maybe someday you'll run into someone else who's wearing the same scent, and once your mind has recovered from being bludgeoned with the memory, you can ask innocently, "oh - what kind of aftershave you're wearing? It's interesting..."

I guess you still have to be careful. Maybe not, if it's the rabbi, of course. Not that he hasn't heard worse.

(Did I type that out loud? LOL)

Guilty Secret said…
Once when I was walking home I found myself behind a guy who was wearing the same scent as my (then new) boyfriend. I followed him ten minutes in the wrong direction just because he smelled so good and I wanted to wallow in it!

Great post... thanks for the reminder :)
Trouble said…
best smelling scent i've encountered for a guy recently is l'occitane's green tea scent. it is soft and yet very masculine. YUMMY.
therapydoc said…
Oh, and let's not forget Bulgari AQVA. When the woman who is selling to you is French, you're probably going to be okay with her suggestion. I could be wrong.
Anonymous said…
Bravo for not asking the guy's scent. Perhaps will give you some leads.

if you have a doc who can speak in full sentences and knows when to shut his or her mouth, you're probably doing okay.

Sounds like you know how hard it is to find one of these. In one initial appointment, which I'd approached hoping for support adjusting to specific cultural differences, I had to ask the therapist-cum-coach to let me complete sentences. She complied, annoyed. When I didn't immediately answer a question, she jumped in and answered it for me, or explained why I was blocked and unable to answer. So I mentioned doing peer counseling back in college and that the first theme in training was to let the visitor talk. She said, "oh, but THIS is therapy." She whipped her foot around while she was waiting for me to respond. I said she seemed uncomfortable with the silence thing. "No, NO - I'm FINE!" I left early, saying it didn't seem to be a match. "Well, that's resistance. What's really going on here is that you're not ready for therapy."

I still haven't figured out how to improve my response to the intercultural snags, but have been able to put the therapy money to good use on lawyers.
therapydoc said…
Molly, this is a fantastic comment. I think what the patient needs to do, when someone else wants to talk, is simply let him. Wait him out. At some point he's bound to ask, "Well, what do you think?"

VERY PREGNANT PAUSE, we're talking 9 months.

Then you can say, "Why don't you just tell me?" Or something to that effect.
I am ROTFL on the last 2 comments!

The first guy I was engaged to (DH hates when I call him 'the X', LOL) used to wear Polo, Drakkar, and Royal Copenhagen. I don't think any of them are "in" anymore, but for a long time, so much as a whiff of any of them was enough to evoke "fight or flight" and make me think "Toxic Waste Alert!"
Mom said…
Hi TherapyDoc,

I am a psychiatrist and find I talk a lot socially, maybe pent up from all the listening I do at work.

Do you wear scents at work?
therapydoc said…
TM, thought you'd never ask.

No, I don't wear scents to work. Unless I really need a lift. Then very lightly.
therapydoc said…
In general I'm pretty non-descript on purpose.

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