'Family' Therapy

Presents an anecdote about the therapy sessions of a New Jersey psychotherapist with mobsters.

By Gary Greenberg, published on May 1, 2000 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

Hollywood writers have recently tapped into an unlikely new
comedicarchetype: the mobster in therapy. In cable TVs The Sopranos and
in the Robert DeNiro/ Billy Crystal film Analyze This (guess who played
the mobster?), the hard-boiled Mafiosi tiptoe into psychiatrists'
offices, pull down the shades and pour their guts out to a petrified

Is there any truth to this scenario? To find out, we obtained
(through an anonymous source) session notes from a prominent New Jersey
psychotherapist who purportedly caters to underworld clientele.

9:30 A.M. Patient: Salvatore Graziano

Salvatore complains of ongoing inferiority complex after being
passed over once again by Big Louie. He says he has lost the will to
bludgeon, which seriously impairs his work as an insurance salesman. I
ask him if he's with an HMO, and he mistakenly thinks that I'm
questioning his sexuality and storms out of the room, huffing a
paperweight through my plate glass window.

Notes: Next appointment prescribe Wellbutrin. Call glass

10:00 A.M. Patient: Pasquale Gigante

Candy Gigante feels that her 8-year-old son, Pasquale, is being
damaged by a destructive Family environment. She is afraid Pasquale will
grow up to be a "button man" like his father and wants a better life for
him. I engage the boy in play therapy, with peculiar results. He grabs a
plastic car and proceeds to stuff dolls in its trunk. Then he draws chalk
outlines around Ken and Barbie and makes Playdough cement shoes for Mr.

Notes: Perhaps button men are born and not made.

11:30 A.M. Patient: Al Paisani

Without an appointment, patient burst; into my office in an
hysterical state. He claims I'm harboring an business associate and
demands that I "cough up the stoolie." When I refuse to hand over my
confidential patient files, he pulls out a pistol and fires multiple
shots at my desk, one bullet ricocheting off my nameplate and embedding
itself in my beeper. He exits with all of my patient files, exclaiming,
"Nobody rats out the Paisani!"

Notes: Rage issues? Install metal detector. Back up files.

2:00 P.M. Patient: Tony Formaggio

Patient complains of negative body image which is constantly
reinforced by his nickname, "The Hunchback." He says he got the name in
college, so on a whim, I ask if he went to Notre Dame. He doesn't
appreciate my attempt at humor therapy, and as he storms out, he smashes
my diploma and throws it in the wastebasket.

Notes: Reread sensitivity training material.

3:15 P.M. Patient: Chris Mazzilli

Patient calls, excited, because he's completed the exercise I
assigned him last session: to come up with his own daily

Proudly, he reads, "Lord grant me the power to whack those I can,
the patience to avoid those I cannot, and the wisdom to know the
difference." I suggest he change "whack" to "slightly rough up," subtly
moving him toward positive behavior patterns.

Notes: Maybe it's not too late for law school.

4:00 P.M. Patient: Mr. Smith

Patient demands that I dim the lights and wear a blindfold during
our session. He tells me of his emotional pain since entering the Witness
Protection Program. He talks of guilt feelings, self-esteem issues and
the fear of being paved into the New York State thruway. He now believes
that ratting out the Paisani may have been the worst mistake of his life.
In lieu of therapy, I recommend a one-way ticket to Mexico City.

Notes: Maybe I should go with him.

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Gary Greenberg is a stand-up comic and author of Self-Helpless and
The Pop-Up Book of Phobias.