Nina Gaby

Essays, art, and healthcare

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“How Did That Make ME Feel”


Available for preorder (Seal Press and on-line booksellers). A new anthology that will be a great addition to the libraries of therapists and therapees alike.

Ever wonder about the process of therapy? You know how it affects you (hopefully well, and hopefully you’ve thought about it) but ever wonder what we, the therapists, might be experiencing? Well here you go. Thirty-five of us writers from both sides of the couch reveal, with candid narrative, the complications of these uniquely intimate relationships.

I was excited to write a piece for this book, but I admit I entered the process with some trepidation. There are rules and boundaries to consider, there is the fear that revealing too much about myself will somehow affect my professionalism. My old-school training was heavy on opacity, as if our “blank-slatedness” could really be a neutral screen upon which the patient could project their unconscious defenses and anything less was poor care. As if a wedding ring or the type of shoes we wore or the way we decorated our office wasn’t a dead give-away as to who or what we were. So I wrote about a kind of transparency, a kind of love in my essay I’m Not Supposed to Love You. Not romantic love, not familial love, but a love that helps us do the work we do, a word that is often taboo in our profession. And not without good reason. We have likely heard of patients who were vulnerable to a therapist’s grossly inappropriate advances, or a therapist whose own training and supervision was grossly inadequate. Psychiatrists who used the power differential in a dangerous way. Or patients whose transference towards the therapist was misinterpreted. After decades in this field, not once has “love” steered me wrong. I am grateful to Seal Press (they go there) and editor Sherry Amatenstein for putting together this collection. Publication date September 6, 2016. Stay tuned for book release events.

From “I’m Not Supposed to Love You”…

This is not about you. The “I love you” piece. It’s about me as a therapist, a psychiatric nurse      practitioner, a clinician, and how I’m not supposed to love you. I learned that rule in my education and training at a big university hospital where even a handshake was considered a slippery slope to major boundary violations. But of course I do. Ask anyone in the therapy field about what we call transference and countertransference, that transaction of feelings between therapist and patient. How it affects what we think of you. How it might deeply affect the decisions we both make. And how to differentiate between the dangerous feelings and the safe, human feelings. I’m not your friend or your mother. You hire me to have a cold, clinical eye and to keep you safe with the right medication, the right therapy. And I need to keep me safe. Because we know how messy emotions get. Isn’t that what brought us here in the first place?”


Don’t Go Up in Flames. Politics 2016. We Get It.

Scene with Sanders and Reid. Sanders head held at an angle of defeat. Silent and sad. It is a horribly disturbing moment no matter what side you are on. But guess what. I was a starry-eyed 17 year old working for Eugene McCarthy and I survived. I was a somewhat more jaded 30 year fighting against Reagan and all he stood for. I survived. I had gotten sober just a month after Reagan announced his candidacy and I have stayed sober throughout the ensuing horror show and the legacy of Reagan’s reign. Survived Nader (who BTW is still “Nadering” My family owned two Corvairs and we survived them too. If you don’t get the reference here you are likely one of those young people I am so worried about.

At 58 I watched Clinton’s concession speech to Obama and my heart was broken but with that heavy heart and frozen fingers I pulled the voting lever for Obama. Of course I did, after early mutterings that I wouldn’t, couldn’t. Look what a surprise ensued. Obama rose above expectations to make some real change, eventually, against all odds. To the passionate young people, don’t throw yourselves over a cliff for anybody. Some columnist whose name I have lost described a post-Trump election as a “pile of burning tires.” Us boomers will be dead soon enough. You will have to try to live with the mess. Thank you for your passion. You can survive.



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“Waggleview” with Bentley and Nina, courtesy of Lori Pelikan Strobel!

“If your dog were an artist, how would he express himself?” Waggleview with Nina Gaby a writer, visual artist, and psychiatric nurse practitioner.