This is an idea that could have been dreamed up by the hyper-neurotic Woody Allen: You go to a therapist, confess to being in a funk over your bad romantic luck, and your therapist tells you there's a way to fix you up with another person in counseling.
The question is, would you go on that blind date?
TheraDate, a new company that promises to match therapy clients who are emotionally and psychologically compatible, is betting you would -- and, in fact, would pay for the chance.
Psychoanalyst Frederick Levenson, who practices on Long Island and in Manhattan, has begun marketing TheraDate in New York magazine and other publications. "We're still a startup," Levenson said.
TheraDate is striving to amass a pool of 750 to 1,000 clients in therapy in the New York area before beginning to match people. Although the number of people who have signed on is now only in the dozens, the idea has raised enough eyebrows to be featured on "Good Morning America," National Public Radio and, of course, in Psychology Today. And it has some mental health professionals warning "buyer beware."
The concept: "The people using psychotherapy to improve their lives are some of the brightest, most verbally adept and success-oriented people in America," Levenson said. They would be more likely to have successful relationships with others who recognize the value of self-reflection and are prone to talk about their feelings, he said. And who better to match them up than therapists, who do marriage counseling every day and whom Levenson calls "relationship experts"?
"It sort of was my idea, but it really came from patients," Levenson said. "Years ago, I was treating a surgical resident, a good- looking young guy, who said, I keep seeing these really attractive women leaving your office. Why can't you fix me up with somebody who's also working on herself?"' In fact, Levenson was treating a lawyer who was age-appropriate and the same religion. "I said, I'd like to do it, but I don't think it's kosher.' From people I know who have done it, it blows up in their face."
But, by asking therapists only to fill out paperwork on their clients -- the matching will be done by TheraDate's panel of contracted therapists -- no individual therapist has to worry about a match backfiring, he said. Levenson recommends clients pay the therapist one session fee to fill out the form. "We also tell them that it would be totally unethical to let insurance pay for it," he said.
While a person on an interview for a dating service would paint the rosiest picture, the therapist knows the truth about the client's strengths and weaknesses, Levenson said. "Ergo, we avoid the bull factor," he said. The therapist can note the client's "psycho-dynamics and defense mechanisms," in addition to whether he enjoys tennis, Levenson said. TheraDate would then match up people who, for instance, have a tendency to intellectualize. "You'd better send them out with another intellectualizer, otherwise you're going to drive the other person crazy," he said.
Not all therapists are likely to wholeheartedly embrace TheraDate.
Joan Weiner, a psychoanalyst and licensed social worker with a private practice in Manhattan, said she sent away for TheraDate's brochure to explore the idea for her patients. While she thinks it is a "great concept" for matchmakers to have experience as psychologists or psychotherapists, she is hesitant about being the one to fill out the forms. She prefers clients fill out the forms themselves, which isn't allowed by TheraDate.
TheraDate is charging an $800 introductory fee until July 31, which will guarantee eight dates in a year, Levenson said. Information is available at www.TheraDate.com; the company is based in New Jersey. If TheraDate never reaches its goal number, it will refund clients' money, Levenson said. TheraDate also is launching in Los Angeles.
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