Sometimes the cures are even simpler, as in the 1989 film "Skin Deep." John Ritter (Zach Hutton) portrays a narcissistic womanizer seeking psychoanalytic treatment from an analyst, Dr. Westford, played by Michael Kidd. The pivotal intervention comes when the analyst compares womanizing to alcoholism. Westford tells his patient that when he treats an alcoholic, he delivers a simple message: "First, stop drinking." Zach then stops womanizing and, after several months of celibacy, appears ready to live happily ever after with his former wife.
This mode of therapeutic action departs from the usual cathartic cure we expect to see from Hollywood. However, the technique depicted is equally simplistic and similarly naïve about therapeutic change. The method of cure is straightforward: Whatever it is you are doing, stop it. This approach would undoubtedly be endorsed by managed care companies, who might argue that such advice could be offered in one session.
While we can commiserate with one another about the impact such depictions have on our public image and on potential patients, we can also learn something about the image we project to those outside our field. Indeed, as Michael Crichton said at a recent meeting of the American Association for Advancement of Science, where he was criticized for his portrayal of scientists in "Jurassic Park" and other movies, no profession likes the way they're depicted in movies. We may actually take heart from the old Hollywood axiom that there's no such thing as negative publicity.