Cheaper Than Therapy
The other day in Time Magazine a man was quoted as saying that learning to fly an airplane was "cheaper than therapy." Since I'm not a pilot -- hell, I can hardly get my career off the ground better yet an airplane -- I'm not in a position to debate this, but considering that over the past few weeks I've also read that gardening, thrifting, knitting, quilting, yoga, ice skating, and playing Bunko are all cheaper than therapy, I'm starting to think psychotherapy may be even more overpriced than I thought. Bunko, in case it's unfamiliar because you've been spending too much time trying to learn to pronounce the word "nucular" to pay attention, is an old dice game which is making a comeback as a replacement for Tupperware, lingerie, and Botox parties. On a good night it's not only cheaper than therapy, but can actually be a profit center.
Take a quick look online and you'll find out that Texas-born singer-songwriter Ginger Mackenzie says writing songs is cheaper than therapy. Ice creamers Ben & Jerry claim the book "The 3 Minute Meditator" is cheaper than therapy. Radio station WWOZ in New Orleans says listening to musicians jam in Jackson Square is "a lot cheaper than therapy." And the Strategic Account Manager's Annual Conference swears it's cheaper than therapy, and at $150 a person I'd say they're right, though you have to wonder about the hidden cost of having to sit through seminars like "Improving Customer Coverage Without Creating Channel Conflict" and "Designing Differentiated Offerings Based on Customer Value Analysis." Years of therapy sound much less painful.
Most of these cheaper than therapy claims are probably true. After all, depending on where you live, who your therapist is, and how lax your HMO is about checking the outrageous bills they're handed, therapy can cost between $75 and $125 an hour. Since conventional psychotherapy takes an average of seven years to show improvement -- unless you're Woody Allen or Richard Lewis in which case it's a life-long preoccupation -- and many people go twice a week, you can figure it will cost as much as $91,000 to forgive your mother for dressing you as the Tooth Fairy before sending you to your second grade Halloween party where the other kids kicked your butt for being so cheap with their tooth rebates. That's a lot of money, enough in fact to buy a 3-bedroom house in Richmond, Virginia, two of the new Hummer H2s which eat SUVs for breakfast (providing you can talk your dealer into a small quantity discount), or 154,237 chocolate bars, which by the way the Vegetarian Kitchen says is -- yes, you guessed it! -- "cheaper than therapy and you don't need an appointment."
While gardening, thrifting, knitting, quilting, yoga, and ice skating are without a doubt much cheaper than therapy, flying isn't. To get a license to fly a single-engine aircraft the FAA makes you take at least 40 hours of training and a flight exam. Forty-two if you're from Saudi Arabia. If you want to fly a private jet you'll need between 3,000 and 4,000 hours of training. Since it costs $90 to $120 an hour for the plane, fuel, and instructor -- plastic Jesus on the dashboard extra -- it could set you back a whopping $480,000 to get your small jet license. For that kind of money your whole family could get therapy. Of course if they did you wouldn't need to. After all, why bore a therapist with all those redundancies?
There's a long list of other things that claim to be cheaper than therapy. There's the band from Cincinnati named Cheaper Than Therapy which I'm sure you can see for under ten bucks a session. Comedian turned talk show host turned where-is-she-now-question Roseanne was quoted as saying that studying the Jewish mystical Kabbalah is cheaper than therapy. Of course she also said "Before Kabbalah I had no friends and everyone thought I was crazy." At least therapy, for all the time and money invested, effects changes.
This is important since even though something may be cheaper than therapy, the question remains: Is it more effective? Will knitting cure obsessive-compulsive disorder or just help you turn out the world's longest scarf? Will listening to musicians in Jackson Square help your inferiority complex or will it send you into a downward spiral because you can't even remember which fingers to use when playing chopsticks on the piano? It's hard to think that becoming a hyphenated singer-songwriter would be good therapy for someone with bipolar disorder. And face it, if your world is spinning out of control how can a triple axel on a skating rink be good for you?
One thing that is cheaper than therapy, and very possibly as effective, is the Sigmund Freud Action Figure which you can get from Archie McPhee (www.mcphee.com). For only $6.95 you can keep this five-inch-tall figure of the Father of Psychiatry which is holding a phallic cigar on your desk where he's always ready to listen to your problems. He'll never send a bill, he doesn't go on vacation, and you'll never need to replace him and start over. In other words, his therapy is cheaper than chocolate.
©2003 Barry H. Gottlieb, All Rights Reserved More Mad Dog can be found at www.maddogproductions.com. His compilation of travel humor columns, "If It's Such a Small World Then Why Have I Been Sitting On This Airplane For 12 Hours?" is published by Xlibris Corp. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.