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A Longreads Member Exclusive: 
When Your Therapist Drives You Crazy

Our latest Exclusive comes from Sabrina Rubin Erdely, a writer for Rolling Stone whose work has been featured on Longreads quite a bit—including the most recent "Gangster Princess of Beverly Hills" and "One Town's War on Gay Teens."

Prior to Rolling Stone, Erdely was a staff writer at Philadelphia magazine—where she wrote our latest Longreads Member pick, 2002's "When Your Therapist Drives You Crazy," about a woman who enters marriage counseling—but ends up consumed by something much bigger.

"I came across this story while covering a cult-awareness conference, where I attended a seminar about psychotherapy cults," Erdely says. "I'd never heard of such a thing before—religious cults, sure, but not a cult built upon exploiting the therapist-patient relationship. I had to find out more."

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When Your Therapist Drives You CrazyBy Sabrina Rubin Erdely  |  Philadelphia magazine  | February 2002 |  27 minutes (6,550 words) 

Illustration by Kjell Reigstad Illustration by Kjell Reigstad
Carol Diament's apartment is decorated with scenes from her old life. Along the living room wall hang black-and-white photographs of a little boy and girl, both radiating apple-cheeked grade-school innocence. In framed color candids on the bookshelves, the kids appear as swaddled infants, as toddlers in overalls, as pint-sized soccer stars posing with a ball. Nearly every picture scattered about Carol's Center City home features these children; they gaze out from long-ago family gatherings and birthdays, forever frozen in time. For Carol, those sweet babes exist only in photos and in her memory. She can hardly bear to think of her son and daughter as they are now: 17- and 19-year olds who refuse to have anything to do with her.

Not long ago, Carol Diament was a suburban wife and mother living in Chester County. That was before she and her husband sought marriage counseling at Genesis Associates, a psychotherapy practice in Exton. What began as a marital tune-up became a six-year therapy odyssey that turned Carol's world upside down. "I went to them for help," Diament says soberly, "and they wrecked my life."

Carol Diament ("DYE-mint") has a good deal of company in her accusations against Genesis. In at least 16 lawsuits—at least 13 of which have been settled out of court; two are still proceeding—former clients have asserted that Genesis did them similar harm. The Pennsylvania psychology board has called Genesis "a clear danger to the public health and safety." A state therapy board revoked Genesis's license. The Pennsylvania state department accused Genesis of a whopping 229 charges of professional misconduct, which led Genesis therapists Patricia Mansmann and Patricia Neuhausel to surrender their licenses to practice counseling in Pennsylvania. Even so, Genesis remains very much open for business.

Carol Diament wishes she knew long ago what she knows now. "They won't see me," she says in a low voice. She absently strokes the black cat, a stray she adopted, who has stretched out beside her on the couch. In an aqua t-shirt and a denim skirt, Carol is youthful at 50, with shoulder-length brown hair and bright blue eyes that go liquid at the mention of her children. "They think I'm crazy," she whispers.

In June 1989, Carol Diament eased herself onto the loveseat beside her husband John and nervously scanned the diplomas on the walls. Their new therapist, Patricia Mansmann, sat facing them in a leather chair, smiling expectantly. This was the Diaments' first serious crack at marriage counseling, and they were both feeling edgy; Carol, because she was desperate to save their nine-year marriage; John, Carol says, because he'd pretty much been dragged here. (John Diament declined to be interviewed.)

They were ordinary people having ordinary problems—serious problems, but not unusual ones. Carol, then 38, felt John was putting in such long hours at his contracting business that he was rarely home. Blond, bespectacled John had his own grievances, including the way Carol doted on their children, relegating him to the role of disciplinarian. After too many fights and sleepless nights, Carol had insisted they seek counseling. A friend had heard of a place called Genesis Associates in Exton, a 20-minute drive from their Glenmore home.

"We work with lots of couples with similar problems," Pat Mansmann told them. A heavyset woman with short brown hair, round glasses and dangling heart-shaped earrings, Mansmann seemed jovial and casual, down to her shorts and polo shirt. The vibe at Genesis was equally informal and New Agey, from the burbling waterfall machine to the framed inspirational poems, including one that read "Feel…Feel…Feel…." Even the practice's logo was touchy-feely: two overlapping hearts with a butterfly perched on top. Still, Mansmann didn't seem flaky, and Carol noted with relief that the therapist and John quickly developed a good rapport. Mansmann explained that Genesis Associates—consisting of herself and another therapist, Pat Neuhausel—was a cutting-edge practice with a uniquely holistic outlook. (Both Mansmann and Neuhausel declined to be interviewed.) Its program was so effective, Mansmann added, that clients tended to show rapid improvements.

"How long do you think it would take us?" Carol inquired.

"About thirteen months," Mansmann answered immediately, according to Carol.

She was surprised at the precision of the reply. "Thirteen months?"

"That's how long our program is," she says Mansmann affirmed. "Unless you were to come up with something else. Like, maybe, incest."


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