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by Abigail Van Buren

Jokes About Psychiatrist's Couch Aren't Amusing to Wife

DEAR ABBY: Will you please explain to your readers that doctors do not practice medicine 24 hours a day? Each time we reveal to people that my husband is a psychiatrist, we have to put up with unfunny jokes about how he's going to analyze them, or insinuations that all he does is sit on a couch and ask, "And how do you feel about that?" How should we respond to these misconceptions? -- NOT LAUGHING IN IOWA

DEAR NOT LAUGHING: The attempts at humor are not a reflection on your husband or the psychiatric profession. They are a clue that the person may be afraid that if he or she opens up and talks with him, he may realize that he or she is "crazy."

Your question takes me back to my childhood, when our family lived in the Midwest and the first psychiatrist moved to the city and opened a practice. For months, no one would talk to the poor man for exactly that reason.

When people "joke" that your husband is going to analyze them, he should smile and say, "Don't worry -- I'm off duty." (If I were in his shoes, I'd be tempted to ask, "... and how do you feel about that?")