Transcript of 1st Session between Charles Balis, M.D. and Ms. Phylis Birch, Tuesday, September 3, 1996 at 11:30 am.

Ms. Birch: Good afternoon, Doctor. I'm Phylis Birch.
Dr. Balis: Hello, Ms. Birch. My name is Dr. Balis.
Ms. Birch: Phylis, please.
Dr. Balis: Okay, Phylis. Please come in. Won't you get comfortable?
Ms. Birch: Should I lie on the couch and make it official?
Dr. Balis: You can if you wish.
Ms. Birch: Sorry to be sarcastic Doctor. I just feel a little funny about finding myself in a psychiatrist's office.
Dr. Balis: I understand. So why are you here?
Ms. Birch: Must we get into the heavy stuff right away? Can't we just talk at first?
Dr. Balis: I think that would be possible.
Ms. Birch: Maybe I can tell you a little about myself, and you can tell me about yourself.
Dr. Balis: Well, we're not here to talk about me.
Ms. Birch: Come on, Dr. Balis, tit for tat. Didn't you see Silence of the Lambs?
Dr. Balis: Yes, I did. But please don't confuse me with Hannable Lector.
Ms. Birch: You don't seem anything like him, thank goodness. Okay, I'm thirty-one years old. Married. No kids.
Dr. Balis: How long have you been married?
Ms. Birch: We were married in '92 in the Fall. The ceremony was outdoors at the Marin headlands just beyond the Golden Gate Bridge.
Dr. Balis: It sounds lovely.
Ms. Birch: It was beautiful. We said our vows in the afternoon. The day was clear and sunny, so we could see for miles around. Then the fog started coming in, wrapping us up in the billowy white. It felt so magical. Funny how a simple meteorological phenomenon can have an almost mystical effect. Listen to me, I sound like some New Age looney.
Dr. Balis: No, it just sounds like you have very fond memories of your wedding.
Ms. Birch: Yeah, maybe.
Dr. Balis: Are you thinking about having children?
Ms. Birch: Um, sure. One day I'd like to have children. In fact, my husband has brought up the subject several times. But, I'm still in the "one day" stage, you know? I love my work, and I just can't see myself giving it all up yet.
Dr. Balis: Is this becoming a point of conflict between you and your husband?
Ms. Birch: No. Not at all. My husband is very supportive of my career. Well, maybe a little.
Dr. Balis: You mean a little conflict?
Ms. Birch: It's not a big deal in our relationship yet. But I can see where he's coming from. After all, at thirty-one my clock should be ticking, right?
Dr. Balis: Do you think it is?
Ms. Birch: It's hard to say.
Dr. Balis: Can we talk about why you're here? Are you experiencing any emotional problems or difficulties?
Ms. Birch: Can we keep it more general right now, Doctor. I'm just not comfortable yet.
Dr. Balis: As you like. Can you tell me more about your relationship with your husband?
Ms. Birch: I think our relationship is the healthiest of all of our friends. Actually, though, that's not saying much. We almost never fight and, if we do, we talk it out right away. We made a deal never to go to bed angry. So far it's working.
Dr. Balis: You're happy in your marriage then?
Ms. Birch: Yes.
Dr. Balis: And your work? Is it satisfying?
Ms. Birch: Like I said earlier, I love my work.
Dr. Balis: What do you do?
Ms. Birch: I'm a senior graphic artist at SII.
Dr. Balis: You do a lot of computer graphics work?
Ms. Birch: Oh, yes. And there's design. I get to design characters and backgrounds for some of our games.
Dr. Balis: Are you getting satisfaction out of your work?
Ms. Birch: Oh yes. It's very creative.
Dr. Balis: How are you getting on with your family?
Ms. Birch: We are quite close, thank you.
Dr. Balis: So everything's perfect?
Ms. Birch: No, of course not.
Dr. Balis: You make it sound perfect. We've been talking for awhile now and I have no idea why you're sitting on my couch.
Ms. Birch: Okay. The fact is Jack thinks I'm having an affair.
Dr. Balis: Jack's your husband?
Ms. Birch: Yeah.
Dr. Balis: Are you having an affair?
Ms. Birch: No.
Dr. Balis: But he doesn't believe you?
Ms. Birch: Well, he hasn't actually confronted me, but I know that he suspects me.
Dr. Balis: Why don't you talk to him about it?
Ms. Birch: This is where it gets complicated. I can't tell Jack that I'm not having an affair.
Dr. Balis: Oh?
Ms. Birch: I mean, I would in his place. He's called my office when I told him that I would be there at a meeting, for example, and was told that I had left for the day. He had also called in the morning on a couple of occasions, when I should theoretically be there, and no one knew where I was. In short, my story hasn't always been supported by fact lately.
Dr. Balis: You mean you've been lying to Jack?
Ms. Birch: Well, yes. I've managed up to now to come up with excuses, but it's getting more and more difficult. He knows me too well not to notice that I'm acting strange when he asks me about these incidents.
Dr. Balis: Why have you been lying to Jack?
Ms. Birch: I've been pursuing a hobby.
Dr. Balis: Oh?
Ms. Birch: It's quite time consuming and Jack doesn't know anything about it.
Dr. Balis: So what is it?
Ms. Birch: Well, it's a little unusual, even a little strange, but I'm really into it.
Dr. Balis: And?
Ms. Birch: It's dives.
Dr. Balis: Dives?
Ms. Birch: Yes, and the people who go to dives.
Dr. Balis: By dives, you mean bars, strip joints, greasy spoon places...?
Ms. Birch: Mostly I mean bars, but I've gone into the quarter booth type places too.
Dr. Balis: Why do you go?
Ms. Birch: I'm not an alcoholic, if that's what you're trying to imply.
Dr. Balis: I wasn't implying anything. I just wanted to understand your hobby. What is it that you get out of it? Is it about men?
Ms. Birch: I've been hit on, but I always turn them away. I try to be as inconspicuous as possible. I even change into extra drecky clothes when ever I go, so as to be totally unappealing.
Dr. Balis: I dare say, Phylis, that I bet it doesn't work.
Ms. Birch: Thank you for the compliment, but you underestimate the length to which I go to become invisible. When I say drecky, I mean drecky! Then, I put my hair up in a tight bun, and put on a little bit of stage make-up to to make me look tired and worn out.
Dr. Balis: You're serious about this. And you do all this and hang out in a bar in the span of a business meeting?
Ms. Birch: I've gotten very fast at putting on my disguise. By now, I can do a total make-over in eight minutes.
Dr. Balis: So how often do you do this?
Ms. Birch: I do it about three times a week.
Dr. Balis: How long has this been going on?
Ms. Birch: It depends on how you count. Three times a week for about two months. Before that maybe it was once or occassionally twice a week for about six months or so. That was easier to hide from Jack, so I did it for some time. I guess it's been eight or nine months total.
Dr. Balis: What do you find so interesting about dives?
Ms. Birch: I'm not sure. I've been attracted to them for many years, but I never had the courage to actually step in. Then I did one time, because I needed a light. Except that I stayed to smoke my cigarette there. There weren't very many people, as I recall. I think there were six in all, including the bartender. Their faces looked like they were from a Scorsese flick. I can't quite put it into words.
Dr. Balis: You're doing fine.
Ms. Birch: They were interesting, that's all. For no reason, I just felt drawn to them. Of course, all conversation stopped when I came in. I disturbed the flow, the routine. So I left.
Dr. Balis: But came back?
Ms. Birch: Yes, eventually. Then I started to step into more places, the ones I liked, the ones that had that special feel about them. Soon I figured out how to stand out less, and an actor friend taught me how to apply theater make-up.
Dr. Balis: Did you tell your friend why you needed this skill?
Ms. Birch: Sort of. I told him that I was thinking of writing a book, and that I wanted to do a character study. He thought it was cool. Later, I told him that I canned the idea because I didn't want word to get back to Jack. You see, I mentioned my little obsession to him, downplaying it of course, and he thought that I was nuts. That it was dangerous and that I was going to get myself in trouble. I couldn't really defend my idea. If I didn't look out for myself properly, it could have spelled trouble. So, I never mentioned it again.
Dr. Balis: Phylis, I think we need to talk more. Would you be willing to come in again next week?
Ms. Birch: I guess I better. We barely got started today. Time went so fast!
Dr. Balis: It sometimes seems to.
Ms. Birch: What's one more secret to keep from Frank?
Dr. Balis: Frank? I thought your husband's name was Jack.
Ms. Birch: Jack. That's right. Jack. That's what I said.
Dr. Balis: Oh, you're not going to tell you husband that you were here?
Ms. Birch: Not unless I could make up another reason as to why I came. You see why I need you? My life is getting too complicated for me to handle. I'm afraid to blow it and give myself away.
Dr. Balis: Let's schedule something for Monday of next week. That would be September 9th. Does that work for you?
Ms. Birch: Yes, I think I can make that.
Dr. Balis: How is three o'clock?
Ms. Birch: Actually, I'd prefer it around lunch time, like this appointment. There's less explaining to do.
Dr. Balis: Okay, let's schedule it for Monday, September 9th at noon.
Ms. Birch: Perfect.
Dr. Balis: One last thing before you go. Do you write a journal?
Ms. Birch: No.
Dr. Balis: Do you doodle?
Ms. Birch: I draw a lot, sure.
Dr. Balis: I'd like to see your doodles. I'd also like you to start writing down some of your thoughts and feelings in a journal.
Ms. Birch: Would it be for you to read?
Dr. Balis: If you allow me to. It can be a useful tool for our sessions.
Ms. Birch: I'll try, but I'll be really pressed for time.
Dr. Balis: Just see what you can do.
Ms. Birch: Thank you. And I'm sorry if I was difficult.
Dr. Balis: Not at all. I'll see you next week.
Ms. Birch: Good day.
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Button to Dr. Balis' Notes Doctor Balis' Notes on this Session

Button to Phylis Birch's Transcripts Transcripts of Phylis Birch's Therapy Sessions
Button to Phylis Birch's Patient File Phylis Birch's Patient File

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