Queen's University

When an analyst needs to talk . . .

Psychiatrists spend their days listening as patients share their innermost thoughts and personal experiences. But who does the analyst confide in when he or she feels the need to talk?

Musings Behind the Couch: A Therapist’s Memoir (Ash Productions, 2004) by Dr. Douglas Frayn, Meds’61, is a revealing account of Frayn’s 50-year career as a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, and a glimpse into the lives of his patients and what he called his “analysands.”

Book Cover

Frayn, who retired in January, was a founding member of the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry in Toronto (now known as the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health), an Associate Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at the U of T, and the former director of the Toronto Institute of Psychoanalysis. 

A Kingston native, Frayn attended Kingston Collegiate and Vocational Institute and as a youth played hockey with Don Cherry. Frayn aspired to be a musician – a concert violinist – but when he came to the sad realization that his dream was not achievable, he became a doctor instead. In the late 1950s, the Dean of Medicine at Queen’s interviewed would-be students individually. He asked Frayn how long he’d wanted to be a doctor. “Two or three weeks,” Frayn replied honestly. He got into Meds school anyway, and trained to be both a neurologist and psychiatrist, although he never practiced as a neurologist.

In Musings Behind the Couch, Frayn tells the stories of his often complex patients, whose names, occupations, and other revealing descriptors have been changed to protect their identities. The author’s tender, non-judgmental observations guide the reader gently through a litany of various mental illnesses, afflictions, and traumas.

“Though rewarding, being an analyst is a lonely business,” says Frayn. “Working one-on-one with analysands means a lot of listening in a world where nobody listens anymore.”

In doing so, he helped patients learn to listen to themselves. But, he wonders, who listens to the therapist, who is bound by rules that prevent him or her from sharing much about their work. “Maintaining patient confidentiality required that I couldn’t share my work with my wife, Eileen, or anyone else,” Frayn explains. “And I had to be careful not to share too much with my patients so that I didn’t burden them, or make them unnecessarily dependent.”

Writing is a form of self-therapy for Frayn, who is also the author of Understanding Your Dreams – A Guide to Self-Awareness (Ash Productions, 2004), and The Clarke and Its Founders: A Retrospective Look at the Impossible Dream (Coach House Press/Clarke Institute, 1996).

Douglas Frayn’s books are available at www.cavershambooksellers.com

Queen's Alumni Review, 2012 Issue #1Queen's Alumni Review
2012 Issue #1
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