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The Yeshiva Psychiatrist

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The Yeshiva Psychiatrist:

This is not (yet) a ubiquitous position in all Yeshivas, but many currently have this type of bachur amongst their student body. While he may be sensitive and a good listener, he is not a therapist; he is an out-and-out psychopharmacologist, without any (clinical) medical training – able to tell you the pros and cons of any prescription-strength psychotropic medication without batting an eyelash. His knowledge base is deeper than that of many Harvard-trained psychiatrists.

He’s the guy you go to when your rebbi’s given up on you, and, after much time spent confidentially counseling you, suggests that “maybe you should see a professional”.

A professional? You mean like a shrink? Aren’t you considered a ‘counselor’, no, I’m sorry, aren’t you perched atop the pinnacle of guiders, what with all your Da’as Torah and all? Such are the questions you are thinking, but dare not vocalize – your ‘respectfulness’ is respectable. Anecdotally, it probably serves to repress more pain, making you that much sicker.

Your rebbi refers you to a social worker; twenty sessions and three thousand dollars later – zero headway made. Time for the big bazooka: The (aforementioned) Medicine Man, a.k.a the yeshiva psychiatrist (YP).

There is no way for you to have guessed that your yeshiva had its own resident semi-closeted witch doctor; he picks up your medication-ready aura autonomically – just one of the varied gifts present in his mental supply-kit. He catches you off guard by the periphery of a late-night dorm-room bull session, where there’s (possibly) some degree of privacy. Without much in the way of etiquette or pleasantries, he immediately recites, with zeal and determination, a Cliff’s Notes A-Z lecture on tablets of all sorts, priming you on everything from old tricyclic meds like Anafranil, to even older (chronological recitals are not part of YP’s strong suit) MAOI pills like Nardil and Parnate, followed by the modern generation of preparations kick-started by the release of Prozac.

When he’s done talking, you tell him what your symptoms are, and he rips a piece of dirty tissue that was lying on the floor and illegibly (here he’s very doctorly) scribbles what you are to take in between chunks of hardened phlegm: Start with 75mg of Lamictal, he may have scrawled, and see me in a week.

Of course, dirty tissues scribbled on by nutty encyclo-heads hold no real currency in the real world (although it’s easy for yeshiva guys to suspend their disbelief on this point, as a yeshiva is basically a hermetically sealed counter-universe), so YP included a phone number on the bottom preceded by the word “Pharmacist”. It turns out, Mr. Pharmacist is in fact a licensed psychiatrist. A licensed psychiatrist who is all too happy to ‘transmit’ your tissue-based prescription to the local druggist.

A few days later, when you open up the psychiatrist’s bill that arrived in your mail bin ($250 for a 50-minute session that never occurred), YP drops by to check up on you. You tell him the truth, that you’re scared out of your friggin’ mind. Horrible ‘electrical zaps’ are going off in your head at the oddest times, and you tell YP that you’re seriously thinking lawsuit. He nods his head knowingly, and with some vigor tries to buy some consistent eye contact time with you, doing what he can to ‘puts things in perspective’, explaining that ‘brain zaps’ do occasionally occur, and are very treatable – with a supplemental medication. His hands are busy writing up a new prescription on a doodled on piece of college-ruled paper as continued words of elucidation spout from his mouth, which is an endless fountain of psychiatric psychobabble.

{ 58 comments… add one }
  • shevers January 24, 2009, 8:26 PM

    This happens in real life?

  • Author of This Post January 24, 2009, 9:17 PM

    Some dramatic/humorous license was taken in writing the piece, but the ‘crux’ of the post is legit.

  • harry-er than them all January 24, 2009, 10:43 PM


    not the medecine part, but the psychology part. its usually in the form of a older not-so-yeshivish guy who happens to be in the particular institution.

  • mo January 25, 2009, 12:03 AM

    straight on, he is found in every yeshiva if
    You know how to find him. Awesome post

  • a former YP January 25, 2009, 12:56 AM

    Wow! Very well said!

  • Frum Satire January 25, 2009, 2:23 AM

    Glad you guys liked it

  • Eddy January 25, 2009, 2:25 AM

    20 sessions for $3,000?? That’s a bargain!

  • Child Ish Behavior January 25, 2009, 2:25 AM

    He knows because he is on it all.

  • DeCo January 25, 2009, 9:08 AM

    this is an extremely well written, humorous piece describing the lives of people (which are more than we think) that don’t quite “fit-in” to the yeshiva system. the point is that just because someone doesn’t fit the mold, that doesn’t require them to seek professional help. as insinuated by the author, sometimes it’s not very effective. thanx for opening this subject to the forum in a humorous tone; people can both laugh at this satire, but also ponder alternate ways to help those that feel a lack of positive progression in the yeshiva system

  • KT January 25, 2009, 10:18 AM

    Wow, really funny. Strangely enough people always come to me asking about medications…….

  • bdpdbj January 25, 2009, 11:29 AM

    Listen i think it is retarded, but unfortunately true. when it comes to the yeshiva world this is all to common, mainly because of the mentality in its very makeup. yeshiva’s nowadays enjoy the reaping from considering themselves to be a cocoon from all else but the one and only “yeshiva.” this is their source of pride. so its not without surprise that the yeshiva psychiatrist is all too real. chas v’shalom for their to be a need for a psychiatrist when one has Torah to learn, right!??? after all why would there be a sefer called “Eitzos v’Hadrochos???”

    Hameivin Yavin

  • Phil January 25, 2009, 11:32 AM

    Lubavitch yeshiva substitutes these guys with lots of lchaims.

  • Non practicing Yeshivish January 25, 2009, 12:43 PM

    I’m unfortunately way to Yavin!
    Yes, don’t forget that you have to ‘walk around a little bit outside’ of course it has to be at 3 am in -12 weather.
    It’s mamash a metzia!

  • Author January 25, 2009, 2:14 PM

    Really was intended as a humor piece first and a not-too-scathing social critique second. If it met either of those two ‘nekudot’ to a modest degree, mah tov ooh’mah’nayim.

  • Former Teacher January 25, 2009, 10:40 PM

    CHARLIE BARTLETT! Best Movie every made!

  • Author January 26, 2009, 7:13 AM

    Wow – totally forgot about that film! Still have to see it.

  • high school "pschiatrist" January 26, 2009, 8:19 PM

    dude, i know a little bit about medicine, and if someone has a question (what happens if you take ritalin and don’t need it) i normally end up hearing about it. and i just remember if kids have meds. and if there’s a potential shidduch out there (kid + drug), i keep my mouth shut.

  • Talmudist January 26, 2009, 8:27 PM

    nice, a real life YP 🙂

  • HUNG SO LO April 1, 2009, 7:32 PM

    One day, while I was vacationing in Hong Kong, I misplaced the key to my hotel room. I called the hotel manager and told him that I needed a new key as soon as possible. Three minutes later, a prostitute showed up at my door saying “Manager tell me you want nooky quick-quick. You give me hundred dollar, I give you number one nooky!” I tried to explain to the young woman, “No, I want a NEW KEY, not your nooky!” She got angry and yelled at me, You want nooky but not MY nooky! What wrong with MY nooky? My nooky clean, just wash this morning!” “You don’t understand me”, I told her, “I need a NEW KEY!”. “And I need hundred dollar!”, she replied at the top of her voice. “Well“, I thought to myself, “since I can’t leave without a new key, I might as well avail myself of the opportunity.” That is when I got my Chinese nickname. When I took my drawers down, the young woman exclaimed, “You hung so lo!, you hung so lo!” “No, I told her, my name is Moshe Rabeynu, I’m not Hung So Lo. I’m not even half-Chinese.” “For China“ she replied “you hung so lo!” So that is how I became known as Moshe “Hung So Lo” Rabeynu in China. I went to the hotel manager and told him, “ I need a new key for my room!” “I already send up nooky for you”, he told me and added, “number one nooky. What the matter, she no go your room?” “Yes,” I answered, “a girl came to my room, and yes, she was quite spectacular and I gave her a tryout but she wasn’t what I really wanted. I need a New Key!” “Ah, now I understand”, said the manager, you no want girl nooky. You want new key from Sum Yung Boi! I get Sum Yung Boi for you!” “No, No”, I exclaimed quite embarrassed, “I do not want some young boy. I want a new key!” The manager appeared to be losing his patience and exclaimed, “If you want new key, you have to get Sum Yung Boi to go to room!” “But sir”, I tried to explain, “I am not gay. If some young boy came to my room, it would be a waste of time!” “How can be waste of time”, he answered, “you want new key, Sum Yung Boi give you new key!” With this, the manager picked up his phone and spoke rapidly into it. “I paged for Sum Yung Boi, he be here soon!” , he told me. I was mortified and wanted to leave the lobby but the manager continued conversing, “Before, when you asked over phone for new key, I thought you wanted nooky. Ha Ha Ha, we have misunderstanding. Now I realize that all time you needed Sum Yung Boi!” “No No“, I responded, worrying that I would never be understood, “I don’t want some young boy. I’m not gay! I need a NEW KEY, A NEW KEY!” At this moment an elderly man came up to us dressed in some kind of work uniform. “Here is Sum Yung Boi”, said the manager, “He go up to room with you and give you new key. Make you happy” “But, I don’t want nooky from this fellow, and, besides how can you call him some young boy? He looks to be seventy or seventy five years old.” The manager looked as if he reached his point of exasperation and yelled at me, “This man’s name is Sum Yung Boi! He is locksmith for hotel! He will check lock to room and give you NEW KEY! You want New Key for room from Sum Yung Boi or not?” “Yes”, I replied, totally embarrassed. “I’ll go up to my room with Mr. Sum Yung Boi and he will give me a new key. I‘m sorry for the misunderstanding!”

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