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Plank, R. (1956). Portraits of Fictitious Psychiatrists. Am. Imago, 13(3):259-268.

(1956). American Imago, 13(3):259-268

Portraits of Fictitious Psychiatrists

Robert Plank

The concept of psychotherapy and psychotherapists which the public at large and that part of the public from which our patients are recruited has formed, has long been of understandable interest to the professional persons in the field. Some papers, e.g. the recent ones by Wilmer (5, 6), have focused on the description of psychiatrists and their alleged activities in popular fiction.

There is a limit beyond which such studies can not penetrate: They can not uncover the image of the psychiatrist as it exists in the public's deeper fantasies. For the author of fiction is usually obliged to keep his portraits reasonably well within the bounds of realism. The rules of his craft do not permit him to describe psychiatrists as he thinks they ought to be or as he thinks they secretly are. He can not project his real fantasy images of psychiatrists into stories and plays which he wants to publish through regular channels.

It is fortunate for our purpose that a genre of literature which is not shackled by these conventions has grown to major proportions in recent years: namely, science fiction. The science fiction writer describes imaginary worlds which are not subject to all our laws. He is not compelled to present realistic pictures. He can construct any image of a psychiatrist—or, for that matter, of any creature. He is therefore able to reveal his real feelings more freely, just as the person responding to the stimulus of a projective test can reveal more than he would in responding to ordinary, more structured stimuli.


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