Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Brooklyn Zoo, by Darcy Lockman

After four years of doctoral coursework, Darcy Lockman completed a year long internship.  Her placement was at the Kings County Hospital, in Brooklyn.  Her assignment was building G, where several notorious patients have resided.  The hospital was under investigation, and it becomes quickly apparent to Lockman that the system is horribly flawed.

As someone trained in psychology and counseling, I thought this book was going to be so interesting, but I found myself horribly disappointed.  The book summary on commercial websites talks about "haunting" cases, and really hypes the book up to be a sort of expose to the horrors of Kings County Hospital.  And perhaps to someone unaware of the realities of the mental health system, that is what this book is.  But to me, this book sounds a lot like Lockman trying to justify her behavior and pass the blame for her bad experience on to the institution.  Sure, the system is overburdened, and sure, I am a little appalled that the supervisors provided no supervision, but we must remember that this is the reality as Lockman presents it, perhaps not reality as it actually was.

I found the writing to be really dry.  Any of the patient cases that were presented were done so in such an emotionless, removed way.  I feel that Lockman is full of contempt, for her supervisors, peers, and her patients, and that contempt drips from the page.  What I found most appalling was how unprepared she was for this internship.  After 4 years of doctoral work, she had never encountered treating someone with an addiction, never encountered a simple phobia, and barely knew the DSM criteria for diagnosis?!  I know she was training in psychoanalysis, but come one, these are pretty common and basic things here.  Things I covered at length in my own Masters program.  Things any doctoral program should cover in an Abnormal Psych class.  

I am also slightly squirmy that this memoir was ever written.  Sure, she does change identifying information regarding patients, but I think she still leaves to much in there, about staff and patients.  It would not be hard to connect the dots.  Nothing in this book serves to help the mental health community, to fix the clearly broken system, or to do any good.  It only serves for her to make a name for herself.  So, she is using the suffering of her patients for her own notoriety.  That seems counter-intuitive to the therapeutic ideal of "first do no harm".

I think, in short, the book is more telling about the flaws within the author that the flaws within the mental health system.

I received this book for review as part of the Amazon Vine program.

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