Stephen Grosz in The Telegraph:
I want to tell you a story about a patient who shocked me.
When I was first starting out as a psychoanalyst, I rented a small consulting room in Hampstead, on a wide leafy street called Fitzjohns Avenue. It was near a number of well-known psychoanalytic clinics and a few minutes’ walk from the Freud Museum. At the south end of Fitzjohns Avenue, there is a large bronze statue of Freud. My consulting room was quiet and spare. There was a desk just large enough for writing up notes and preparing my monthly bills, but no bookshelves or files – the room wasn’t for reading or research. As in most consulting rooms, the couch wasn’t a couch, but a firm single bed with a dark fitted cover. At the head of the bed was a goose-down cushion, and on top of that a white linen napkin that I changed between patients. The psychoanalyst who rented the room to me had hung one piece of African folk art on the walls many years before. She still used the room in the mornings, and I used it in the afternoons. For that reason it was impersonal, ascetic even. I was working part-time at the Portman Clinic, a forensic outpatient service. In general, patients referred to the Portman had broken the law; some had committed violent or sexual crimes. I saw patients of all ages and I wrote quite a few court reports. At the same time, I was building up my private practice. My plan was to reserve my mornings for clinic work; in the afternoons I hoped to see private patients who had less extreme or pressing problems.