Paul Lozano was a beloved son of a Mexican American family in El Paso, Texas. In his first year at Harvard Medical School, he had a difficult time adjusting to the loneliness and the strange environment. He sought psychotherapy with Dr. Bean-Bayog, a member of the Harvard psychiatry faculty. She told him to think of himself as a 3-year-old, and gave him flash cards with messages such as "I'm your Mom--I'll always be your Mom." Paul regressed, and his mental functioning deteriorated. As their relationship grew more peculiar, Dr. Bean-Bayog apparently gave Paul more than 50 pages of her handwritten sadomasochistic sexual fantasies about the two of them. Then she stopped seeing him, because she was adopting a baby boy. Paul killed himself. It's a distressing, suspenseful story. As the New York Times writes, "Breakdown: Sex, Suicide, and the Harvard Psychiatrist, its lurid title notwithstanding, makes a serious attempt to arrive at the truth in this strange case." Author Eileen McNamara also uses the case as a springboard for discussing broader issues such as the need for professional standards and accountability in psychotherapy.
From Publishers Weekly
McNamara's disturbing and impressive investigation into the case of Harvard Medical School student Paul Lozano, who committed suicide in 1991, nine months after Harvard psychiatrist Margaret Bean-Bayog severed her ties to him, reaches conclusions diametrically opposed to those of the author's Boston Globe colleague Gary S. Chafetz in Obsession (reviewed above). McNamara charges that Bean-Bayog erred badly in using an untested role-playing therapy that cast her as the "mother" and Lozano as her "son." By passing along to her patient sexually explicit notes, letters, inscriptions in baby books and flash cards ("You can too feel like a three-year-old when you're twenty-five . . . You can breast feed and be cozy," wrote the psychiatrist on one card), Bean-Bayog, McNamara contends, reduced her patient to an infantile, dependent state. This "mothering technique" was also in conflict with Lozano's insistent sexual attraction toward Bean-Bayog, according to McNamara. She is highly skeptical of the portrayal by the former psychiatrist (Bean-Bayog has resigned her medical license) of Lozano's boyhood as one of mental torture, instability and possible sexual abuse by his mother.
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