If the singles scene makes you feel a little crazy, Manhattan psychotherapist Dr. Frederick Levenson
suggests finding a like-minded mate: someone with similar obsessions, defense mechanisms and even nervous tics.
Sounds offbeat?Exactly.Levenson is the founder of TheraDate, a matchmaking service for people who are voluntarily in therapy.
The program pairs singles based on confidential questionnaires completed by the people who supposedly know them best: their therapists.
Currently, close to 300 applicants each in New York and Los Angeles have consented to have their analysts submit their information to TheraDate
, which is based in New Jersey.When the pools reach 750, the matching will begin, provided that the professional backlash that the service interferes with therapy does not deride the controversial program.Clients pay $800 for eight matches; Levenson
anticipates a future annual $2,000 membership fee.
For the 57-year-old Levenson
, a native New Yorker who has been in private practice for more than 30 years, TheraDate
is the answer to much more than just bad dates.It's a preventive measure against a U.S. divorce rate of 50 percent.
"We don't know how to be successfully long-term married as a people anymore, and this is the most serious problem facing the country," said Levenson
, a nationally certified psychoanalyst.Resorting to sarcasm to make a point, he
added, "If you rely on just chemistry and hormones to get married in the United States, you should also be keeping a divorce attorney on retainer." Levenson
sees the country's high divorce rate as a call to action.Since mental health professionals deal extensively with relationship issues, they are the most qualified to set up lasting matches, he
..."Every therapist I have ever supervised has had patients who have said, ëDon't you know someone you can introduce me to?'" said Levenson, who has worked at a drug rehabilitation program and a state hospital and has also taught at Hofstra University.
The seeds for TheraDate
were sewn over the years by Levenson's patients, who often asked him to try his
hand at matchmaking.
"I couldn't do it," said Levenson
."I would have been in a dual role of playing matchmaker and therapist, which is unethical."Levenson
is convinced that TheraDate's
division of labor steers clear of the ethical minefield.A client's personal therapist only fills out informational forms and does not engage in matchmaking.That process is left to the TheraDate
staff, who, in turn, are not involved in therapy of any kind.
Some mental health professionals view TheraDate
as dangerous to the therapist-patient relationship.
"Matchmaking is as old as human beings, but [Levenson] is trying to make it more scientific than intuitive," said Dr. Jacobson.
, however, is undeterred, and his
sense of urgency is fueled by his
belief that bad relationships are actually a physical health hazard.
"America is a very carcinogenic country, and it corresponds to the divorce rate and crummy relationships," he
has authored two books, "Causes and Prevention of Cancer" and "The Anti-Cancer Marriage: Living Longer Through Loving," both exploring the psychosomatic aspects of cancer.The best bet against cancer, Levenson
believes, is healthier relationships.Levenson
himself has been married for more than 30 years to a fellow psychoanalyst and has three children.
Levenson claims that the matching system performed wonderfully in blind tests, and if TheraDate
is successful, he
plans to expand to every major metropolitan area and possibly to the gay and lesbian communities.If it fails to hit its applicant target by next April, those already signed up will get their $800 fee back. He
is hardly worried about his
professional reputation.In fact, Levenson
seems to take a certain amount of pride in being called, as he
puts it, an "unethical sleazebag" by some colleagues.
"When Lister said to surgeons, ëWash you hands before you cut into people,' he
was almost drummed out of his
medical society," he