Howard Sterns Endless PsychotherapyHoward Stern, the ubiquitous satellite radio talk-show host, is a big proponent of psychotherapy. He has noted how he’s been in psychotherapy three times a week for the past few decades, much like Woody Allen. But what kind of psychotherapy is Howard Stern in? And why does it seem endless?

This type of intensive, long-term psychotherapy is almost always psychoanalysis — a specific type of psychotherapy that focuses on how a person’s unconscious conflicts impact a person’s everyday functioning. People who undergo psychoanalysis almost always meet with their analyst 2 to 3 times a week, every week, for years on end. Howard Stern has said he sees his analyst 3 times a week, but sometimes feels like he would like to cut down to twice a week.

Psychoanalysis is considered a specific form of psychodynamically-oriented psychotherapy and is far more popular in European countries than the U.S. And it’s no wonder — it’s the form of treatment invented by Sigmund Freud himself. Contrary to popular belief, there’s been a fair amount of empirical research conducted on psychodynamic therapy demonstrating its general effectiveness (see, for example, Shedler, 2010). Psychoanalysis is indeed a valid, effective form of therapy.

But at three times (or more) a week, who can afford such intensive therapy (other than celebrities like Howard Stern or Woody Allen)? And why would you bother if other forms of less intensive psychotherapy can be just as effective?

9 Comments to
Howard Stern’s Endless Psychotherapy

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  1. I realize there are some people for whom a dozen therapy appts. a month for decades is helpful, but I believe the rest of us should strive to enter and then LEAVE therapy. Therapists in general should be helping a person deal with the past and the current, then teach the client to deal with the future on their own. I’ve long thought of someone like Woody Allen as co-dependant and his analyst is laughing all the way to the bank.

  2. I was surprised by the assertion that most psychoanalysts are psychiatrists. In my experience most analysts are MSWs and psychiatrists do not seem to pursure analytic training.

  3. Well, it seems to me that the author of this article is not completely aware what a psychoanalytical cure is, when he write that it make the client dependent (?!). This is a common, normal fantasy about the therapeutical situation, but also a cliche that can be analyzed too.

    The dependence is in fact one that the client bring in therapy, and a good therapy try to deal with it. It last for a week, a month, a year, a decade or a life – as for Howard Stern and Woody Allen. The long life support is, of course, important too, for these two clients and many others.

    I guess that one of your gains in therapy is that you can see, having to chose between two or more explanations, not the “or-or” choice, but more often the “and-and” one. I think that it is also the case here.

  4. “but in general, research has demonstrated that psychoanalysis is suitable for virtually any disorder of any severity.”

    John, my understanding is that people with borderline personality disorder whether in the neurotic, borderline or psychotic range are totally unsuited to psychoanalytic psychotherapy proper where the analyst sits behind the “lying on the couch” patient, because this type of situation can trigger off paranoia or psychosis both in the short and long term.

    Sonia
    Therapy Unplugged

  5. Dante – I don’t agree with the assertion that dependence is a “fantasy” about the therapeutic situation that a client brings into the relationship. That’s hogwash — it sounds like a complete rationalization for the normal feelings of dependence that are bound to come up for nearly anyone who sees a professional this intensively for years on end.

  6. Howard Stern is dependent on his analyst? Probably also his business manager, his personal assistant, his housekeeper, his personal trainer…. so what? Is the concern that he’s setting a bad example for potential therapy clients, going “too often” and endlessly?
    He and his analyst are breaking some rule?

    You place value on this: “good psychotherapy should be time-limited and goal-focused — you enter therapy with a specific goal (or set of goals in mind), and when you’ve reached them, it’s time to leave.”
    Perhaps for most people this is best, and for most people it is what they can afford or get insurance to cover. So be it.

  7. That’s crazy! I only saw my therapist 3 times a week for about a month when I was going through a bona fid crisis and I was endanger of being hospitalized. During that time my life was basically about therapy and getting well. Money aside, I can’t imagine putting all that energy into therapy each week. Where is your life? I’ve also noticed that when I see or talk to my therapist a lot, my relationship with others like my spouse and parents becomes more distant because I’m just relying on my therapist for emotional support. That isn’t healthy. That’s why I decided take a break from therapy, and I’ve become much closer to my family because I’ve ditched my therapist.

    It’s ok to have a longterm relationship with a therapist, but you shouldn’t see them frequently when you are emotionally healthy. You should be able to help yourself or look to others in your life for support. That should be the goal of therapy.

    Long-term psychoanalysis seems to be a ploy to get rich people to pay $$$ to the therapist.

  8. If Howard Stern is dependent on his analyst, then he’s likely also dependent on his personal assistant, business manager, trainer and housekeeper. Busy and successful people rely on others as a norm.
    I don’t understand the value judgment on how he and his therapist are working.
    Do you think it sets a bad example for others, the fact that he goes so often or for so many years?
    Good therapy should have a time limit? It is what you state: good psychotherapy should be time-limited and goal-focused

    I’m not a fan of this guy, but maybe this is the most effective way for him to have a happy life? You say “it would be nice to have that kind of professional helping you with life’s ups and downs your entire life” – so his approach is good too?
    A lifetime of therapy, good or not good? A luxury for the rich?

  9. “In my opinion, good psychotherapy should be time-limited and goal-focused — you enter therapy with a specific goal (or set of goals in mind), and when you’ve reached them, it’s time to leave.”

    My experience of psychotherapy has been different. The problem I entered therapy with turned out to be a superficial one. We found bigger fish to fry as we worked on the initial problem. These took time (1 yr of weekly sessions, then 2 yrs of every other week). I guess I could have worked for 12 weeks on the original presenting problem and then gone my own way with some superficial symptom relief. But my therapist and I chose to work on these deeper issues, and obtain greater healing for me rather than just symptom relief. Wonder of wonders, when you work on those core issues, some of your superficial problems (that cause difficulty in life and initially bring you to therapy) get “fixed”. I am really glad my therapist was not the kind who makes you stay “on task” and work for a short time only on the presenting problem.

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