Psychotherapy’s Mark Twain

Psychotherapy’s Mark Twain

For Frank Pittman, Self-Seriousness Was the One Unpardonable Sin

By Mary Sykes Wylie

March/April 2013

For 26 years, Frank Pittman, who died the day after Thanksgiving last November at 77, was not only the Networker’s movie reviewer, but its most distinctive, fearlessly opinionated voice. Often, it seemed, Frank’s refusal to mince words inspired more outraged letters to the editor than all our other contributors combined.

A balding man with puckish eyebrows, a folksy Southern accent, and a perpetually bemused expression, he delighted in pointing out the follies, foibles, and excesses of the therapy world, especially anything he considered too trendy, sanctimonious, or politically correct. He relished the role of psychotherapy’s answer to Mark Twain, considering humor not merely an entertaining diversion, but an obligatory means of making sense of the foolishness he saw around him, both inside and outside the consulting room. For him, humor was the best intervention for challenging engrained pessimism, hopelessness, and most of all, self-seriousness. As he once wrote, “When people feel what they feel so deeply and so desperately, they can lose the ability to see the absurdity of it. . . . Sometimes they can’t see it until someone laughs at them lovingly and acceptingly. The laughter is the breath of life, the exclamation that you have discovered an alternative to death and despair, a way out.”

Frank began his psychiatry career with a residency at Emory University’s Department of Psychiatry in 1960. From early on, he more or less refused to toe the…

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Sunday, January 15, 2017 3:52:26 AM | posted by George Cohen
Q. Has anyone ever archived or put together the movie reviews of Frank Pittman, who died a few years ago? He wrote SO MANY GREAT MOVIE REVIEWS FOR THE NETWORKER-- where can I find them? Has anyone replaced him as a therapist-movie reviewer writing anywhere else?? THANKS George Cohen, LCSW

Monday, May 13, 2013 3:48:34 PM | posted by Vi Neufeld
An inspiring article. Thank you. I read Pittman's articles "religiously" over the years and this article was a wonderful tribute to his substantial contributions. And how lovely and fitting that his name was "Frank".(I had missed that connection!). Such a pity that publishers didn't go with his first titles--much more compelling.

Thursday, May 2, 2013 4:47:11 AM | posted by Natalie Mills
I so enjoyed reading this. I loved this guy! He was my hero and a vicarious mentor to me.

Sunday, April 14, 2013 4:19:45 PM | posted by Paul Rutter
A very accompllished man in many areas out of psychotherapy too, and a very well written tribute to him to be archived by many. I am so glad to have known Frank Pittman in my life.

Thursday, April 4, 2013 5:35:44 PM | posted by David Rachlis
Well done Mary.

Monday, March 25, 2013 5:40:04 AM | posted by Len Kliewer
Bravo Bravo... I am a small town 62 yr old Canadian therapist who wishes to Amen this man. Thankyou for going public on behalf of many of us likeminded therapists who are quite similar and yet play on a much smaller stage. Thank you for your life Frank, and blessings to your family.