Leslie Slaven (4 stars) March 23, 2016
Change and growth run at different speeds
Dr. Obler tells his story just as if he were sitting across from you
in a coffee shop. He uses his own language which is a colorful mix
of his street background and intelectual education. There is no
arguing that this man has bulldozed his own trail as he fights to
survive in the dangerous and ‘dead end’ streets of Brownsville
as he seeks his chance to escape forever.
This is a great American tale of a child of Jewish immigrants, a
mother who lived in indentured servitude, who like his father,
had no education or proper English skills and no hope of a better
life. How he rises above it all with nothing but a will to do so
and an innate cleverness that will make it all happen.
With no money, a supposedly low IQ and no support from his
community, family, or school he rises above it all, but not
without a long path of life lessons along the way.
Shrink is nothing if not funny, but it is very thoughtful and
introspective as it shows that while hard it may be to change
your outside world, it is way harder to change your inner world.
Unknown One (5 stars) April 27, 2016
Remarkable story of a unique doctor
This is a really two books in one. It is the remarkable story of
a Jewish ghetto child of the depression and immigrant parents,
surviving the mean streets of Brooklyn and somehow finding his
way to a remarkable career as a therapist who has helped many.
the narrative is filled with street language anecdotes of
childhood to adolescence in a deprived and dysfunctional
family. followed by an unlikely transformation. Throughout
it all, Obler never loses or attempts to obscure his roots.
Sprinkled throughout the book are intense case histories of
Dr. Obler’s experience with his clients. His unorthodox style
is compelling reading for those with even a casual interest
in the subject.
G. Ellenbogen (5 stars) April 18, 2016
A brutally honest account of an unconventional
therapist and his journey from childhood Hell
to successful therapy practice
In Shrink, Dr. Obler (a clinical psychologist) presents a
brutally honest account of his nightmare-of-a-childhood
and the things he needed to do to survive both physically
and psychologically, as well as the price he had to pay
for erecting a number of psychological defenses that
ultimately helped him to achieve the success that he so
His was a long journey, from the poverty of the Jewish
ghetto in NYC and the severe psychopathology of his
family, to his fine balancing act of holding jobs
full-time while going to school full-time and
supporting his wife and children full-time, earning an
undergraduate degree summa cum laude, a Masters degree,
and a doctorate in clinical psychology.
Obler goes into great detail about his impaired
relationship with his first and second wives, his
distancing himself from his children, and how the
blue-print of his childhood was largely the cause of
At the same time, he does not leave himself off the
hook, analyzing his behaviors and not shying away from
being rather self-critical. Obler also gives a rich
picture of his clinical practice, which reflects his
life-long role as maverick, thinking outside the box,
taking on remarkably difficult patients that most
therapists would not even consider treating, and
oftentimes using strategies and tactics that are so
extraordinary that Obler himself questions how far over
the line he may be stepping in order to produce the
therapeutic results that these very troubled patients
so desperately need.
Obler approaches much of the material with a humorous
bent. While granted psychoanalysts might argue that humor
itself is a defense, therefore Obler is being defensive in
approaching such heavy-duty material with humor, one might
also argue: Yes, humor is a defense, but it is high on the
list of defenses. At times, Obler’s writing style is
refreshingly creatively divergent, as when he “breaks the
fourth wall,” acknowledging the reader and making a
self-effacing comment to the reader about Obler’s
just-described behavior. So, for instance, he might be
noting in print that in such and such a relationship he
had been acting in a manipulative and self-serving
manner, and then he might turn to the reader and make a
snide comment about himself directly to the reader (a
style that Groucho Marx made good use of in his early
Overall, I found the material so compelling and many
times Obler’s behaviors so outrageous that the book
became a “page-turner” – I could not put the book down,
so eager was I to find out what outlandish thing Obler
did next. Ultimately, no matter how unconventional,
narcissistic, self-involved, and insecure Obler proved
to be (and HE is the one who is highlighting these
descriptors in his book), in the final analysis (no pun
intended) perhaps the ultimate litmus test is: Did Obler
prove to be an effective therapist in his practice? Did
patients benefit from his manipulations, his humor, his
confrontations? In most instances, it seems that they did.
As to his success outside of his practice, in his personal
affairs (and his many affairs), he seems to argue that he
has not been as successful (yet).
I highly recommend this book.