Hollywood therapists share their tools for a creative life
Phil Stutz and Barry Michels have worked as therapists in Hollywood since the 1980s. Their clients include A-list stars from across the film industry, many of whom have come to rely on their advice. And in their new book, Stutz and Michels share that same advice with the rest of us.
Hollywood may be a dream factory, but the machinery of show business looks like an unethical psychology experiment.
It's a one-industry town full of gigantic egos, deep insecurities and an abusive pecking order — the talented and passionate people making bitter compromises, or seeing their life's work shelved in a studio vault. Not surprisingly, therapists are ubiquitous.
Phil Stutz and Barry Michels are Hollywood psychologists with a roster of A-list clients.
"Especially among the actors, you have people where no one's told them the truth ever for the last eight years, 12 years," Stutz said.
"We tell them the truth about who they are, both the strong points and the weaknesses," Michels added. "And we're pretty brutal about the weaknesses, because we want people to change."
Stutz and Michels have shared what they've learned with the stars in a book geared to the rest of us called "The Tools."
Their tactics combine Jungian analysis with cognitive behavioral therapy. One chapter deals with what Carl Jung called the Shadow.
"Everybody has a piece of them that's insecure," Stutz said. "It's not particularly rational and you can't get rid of it."
When, for example, a screenwriter sabotages his pitch at an important meeting, it may be because he or she is trying to hide the shadow. Instead, Stutz and Michels say, the screenwriter needs to visualize this "shameful" persona, make friends with it and enlist its aid in judgmental situations.
"Although most people think of their shadows as the source of their insecurity, if you can change your relationship with your shadow, it becomes the source of your confidence," Michels said.
The pair started their careers about as far from celebrity as you can get: Michels as a lawyer with political ambitions, Stutz as a prison psychiatrist at New York's Rikers Island.
In prison, Stutz explains, what you say is nowhere near as important as what you do and how you communicate non-verbally.
"There's a whole level of communication that, within psychotherapy, is not usually dealt with," he said.
PRI's Peabody Award-winning "Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen" from WNYC is public radio's smart, surprising guide to what's happening in pop culture and the arts. Each week, Kurt introduces you to the people who are creating and shaping our culture. Let Studio 360 steer you to the must-see movie, the next book for your nightstand, or the song that will get stuck in your ear.<