Book Review

Obsession (1994)

EW's GRADE
C

Details Writers: Gary Chafetz, Morris Chafetz; Genres: Biography, Self-Help and Psychology

Perhaps you recall the case of the ''kinky shrink'' -as the media so crudely but unforgettably put it-the Ivy-educated psychiatrist accused of seducing her client, a young Mexican-American Harvard medical student, who then committed suicide. That books would be written about the tangled relationship of Dr. Margaret Bean-Bayog and Paul Lozano was as inevitable as the floods and tornadoes of spring. That they would both be written by rival Boston Globe reporters (one in conjunction with his psychiatrist father) was not. Nor that they would come to startlingly different conclusions-one passionately defending Bean-Bayog and the school of Freudian psychotherapy she espoused, the other condemning her as little better than an astrologer or tarot card reader.

Written with the full cooperation of the Lozano family, Eileen McNamara's Breakdown tells the story more as they, their lawyers, and the psychiatrists who accused Bean-Bayog of malpractice saw it. Morris and Gary Chafetz's Obsession, on the other hand, goes to amazing lengths to present the unfortunate therapist pretty much the way she sees herself: as the ''Joan of Arc'' of psychotherapy.

Lozano picked Bean-Bayog's name off a list the Harvard University Health Service provided its students. Somehow deducing that the troubled young man's bouts of depression had been caused by infant sexual abuse at the hands of his mother (who denies the charges), Bean-Bayog set out to treat him by means of a talk therapy of her own devising. ''To reach Paul Lozano's inner child,'' McNamara says, ''Dr. Bean-Bayog devised a series of role-playing episodes in which she would be the mother and he would be her son.'' But judging by her notes, things got strange fast.

Lozano quickly became extremely dependent upon the therapist, then seductive toward her. Before you could say ''countertransference,'' one of those $150-an-hour psychobabble words meaning that the doctor got the hots for her patient, Bean-Bayog lost it. Supposedly to control her feelings, she began to write explicit pornographic tales starring her and Lozano-Penthouse mag-type stuff mostly, with a sadomasochistic edge. When Lozano got his hands on his own records-including the Penthouse-type stuff-things turned truly weird. He claimed Bean-Bayog had not only shared her fantasies with him, but had masturbated during therapy sessions and seduced him. Her defense? Why, the man was stone crazy!

To buy Bean-Bayog's version of events, you have to believe everything Lozano told her about abuse that supposedly happened back when he was still nursing and wearing diapers-then turn around and disbelieve what he told other psychiatrists about her behavior. Bean-Bayog herself argued that she was being singled out for ridicule because she was a woman. Rather than face a possible trial, however, she surrendered her medical license and settled the malpractice suit for $1 million. An admission of guilt? Who knows? Read and decide for yourself. Breakdown: A- Obsession: C

Originally posted Jan 29, 2008 Published in issue #218 Apr 15, 1994 Order article reprints
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