Cant afford a shrink Self-therapy is here

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Life according to Woody Allen is divided into two categories.

Horror, he tells his co-star Diane Keaton in the hit movie "Annie Hall," includes the blind and the crippled. "Misery," he says, "is everyone else."

Such pessimism from the self-described "depressed kid from Brooklyn" lands him a 15-year stint in therapy and a job as a comedian.

Too bad he didn't have a copy of Michael Edelstein's new book, "Three-Minute Therapy: Change Your Thinking — Change Your Life," written by a real-life kindred spirit who got better advice from his therapist.

"When I was a teenager, I was depressed, anxious and a procrastinator," says Edelstein, a San Francisco clinical psychologist, who grew up in Brooklyn.

Edelstein had enrolled in Brooklyn College at the age of 16. By 19, though his grades were fine in elementary and high school and he had done OK at Agadath Sholom's Hebrew school, he was now "on the verge of getting thrown out."

Competition at college was tough. So instead of facing the discomfort of studying, he withdrew into a different kind of intellectual pursuit. "I was a chess addict," he admits.

"Because of my insecurity about my abilities and low discomfort tolerance, I'd procrastinate on studying till the night before an exam," he says. By then, the course material was too overwhelming, he'd miss the exam and get dropped from the course.

"I went to a psychologist for a year, and that didn't help at all. I'd look forward to the next session to tell about my problems, but never get ways to work on them."

Then he heard Albert Ellis on a radio show.

Ellis had become popular in the '50s for creating the Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy technique of psychoanalysis.

Simply put, says Edelstein — who, with David Ramsay Steele, editorial director of Open Court Publishing, wrote "Three Minute Therapy" based on REBT — "upset emotions come from unrealistic thinking.

"As a result of thinking differently, more realistically, we change our emotions and change our behavior."

Edelstein followed the REBT guidelines under Ellis' guidance during his college years in the '70s. Within five years he had become a graduate student at Yeshiva University.

During his 24-year career, Edelstein has been a clinical supervisor at Bay Area Addiction Research and Treatment, and advisor to Rational Recovery Self-Help Support Network in San Francisco.

Now with the publication of his first book, he reveals the techniques he learned while struggling through his own problems so that readers may become self-therapists. Although, like the Maytag repairman, that would put him out of work, he says, "I have another job as a bookseller."

Meanwhile, clients who practice daily "first notice how much better they feel," says the psychologist. "They're not going to feel happy about being fired [for example], but the difference between hopeless and disappointed is a dramatic difference."

According to Edelstein, Jewish clients hire him for roughly the same reason the "Annie Hall" hero might:

"I'm very shallow and empty and I have nothing interesting to say," Allen tells Keaton.

"I think insecurity is very common among Jews," says Edelstein. REBT results, however, can be very dramatic.

"Imperfect humans acting imperfectly — just saying that seems to be relief," he says.

The Albert Ellis Institute for Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy in New York, where Edelstein studied, taught and now supervises the training of clinical faculty members, has stocked 50 copies of "Three-Minute Therapy."

Some of the chapters in the Book-of-the-Month Club pick address worry, depression and self-esteem, subjects of possible interest to "the pandemically nervous and insecure Woody Allen types," suggest the author.

Such as himself?

"Oh, absolutely."