A bunch of doctors: Just what the doctor ordered

Sometimes, as the Rolling Stones sang, you get what you need. And sometimes it is only when you get what you need that you realize just how badly you needed it.

This past weekend, most of my clinical psychology classmates – the entering Ph.D. class of 1994 at the University of Michigan – descended on Ann Arbor for a reunion. The only thing that would have made the weekend better was if the three who were missing had been there.

I have been blessed with a lot of laughter in my life, but seldom have I laughed so much as I did this weekend. At one point, when I was in my kitchen and everyone else was on the back deck, I just paused and listened to the laughter pouring through the open window. I felt such joy and satisfaction listening to that.

The night before all were to arrive, I was a bit worried. We had last been all together so long ago, I wondered if the chemistry wouldn’t be there. Would there be long, uncomfortable silences? Would we, a group that had been so close-knit in graduate school, find that we had drifted apart? It took no time after everyone’s arrival to realize that all was well. I mentioned to one of my classmates that I had had these concerns. He turned to me and said in his typically thoughtful, wise way, “Josh, how could it be any other way for a group of people who care so much about each other?” Notice that he said “care,” not “cared.”

These were my people, my dear friends, people I had spent a lot of wonderful and hard times with. We had gone through something intense and challenging together, and we had shared joy and sadness, devastating tragedy, complete triumphs, and a hell of a lot of laughter. We had picked each other up, dusted each other off, cheered each other on, challenged each other to feel and think more deeply, cried on each other’s shoulders, gotten each other out of scrapes, and supported each other through crises. We learned to be professional listeners together, and we listened a lot to each other. It is a remarkably healing and satisfying thing to be heard and feel known.

This weekend served as yet another recent reminder that I, once a practicing psychologist and now a lawyer, prefer the company of psychologists to that of lawyers. That’s not to say that all lawyers are bad company or that all psychologists are good. But as a general matter, there is a meanness that lurks just below the surface at best in law and a kindness that is readily apparent in psychology. Or perhaps I should be more direct: as a general matter, there is a meanness that comes all too easily to many lawyers and a kindness that is wonderfully accessible to psychologists. Even if you go into law to help people, sometimes the way that you have to help them is by being brutal and ruthless. I know too many people who describe that as “fun.” I’m fed up with them.

I am grateful to my psychology classmates for making the journey to Ann Arbor for our reunion. Those doctors were just what the doctor ordered.