A screenwriter engrossing account of how she was rapidly, ruthlessly swindled by her therapist.
This tale of how an emotionally needy woman is drawn in and betrayed by her therapist has all the terror of an impending train wreck watched from a great distance; the reader knows that nothing good will come of the author’s relationship with therapist David Cohen but is powerless to look away. Miller—daughter of distant parents, determined professional in the misogynist world of Hollywood writers—was the ideal mark for Cohen’s killing-with-kindness confidence game. At their very first meeting the manipulation began, when Miller agreed to Cohen’s request that she pay him in advance for 20 sessions. From that point on, Cohen reeled his patient in deeper and deeper, finally offering her a lifetime of therapy if she’ll hand over $60,000, which she did (in return for her therapist’s “constant support, enthusiasm, and generosity”). So charismatic and convincing was Cohen that Miller forced herself to ignore her inner doubts when he made increasingly wild promises—that she would become a true member of his family, that she would accompany them on a trip to Australia, that she would own the guesthouse on his estate. Much of the account’s strange appeal lies in watching how Miller participated in her therapist’s deceptions. She was enamored of Cohen’s iconoclastic style, she claims, because it was so antithetical to that of her father (who was also a psychiatrist). Her suspicions of Cohen were put down as “defense mechanisms” by her and her therapist (which is precisely what they were). The author’s style itself is simple and urgent. Perhaps too much ink is spilled describing exactly how her parents threw away her dolls and discontinued her dancing lessons, but the narrative as a whole is irresistible. The swindle ends in textbook fashion, shrouded in mystery: Cohen’s sordid death in San Francisco leaves Miller, and the reader, wondering if he has just carried off the most successful confidence game of all.
Perhaps too bizarre to be a literal cautionary tale, but, still, a case study of the extremes to which abuse of trust can be carried.