Shrink to the Stars Stays Firmly on the Ground

July 23, 2014
Ed Rabinowitz

Beverly Hills psychiatrist Carole Lieberman is more than a shrink to the stars. She's an Emmy winner, an activist, an expert witness, and a soothing voice to many.

Sometimes you just know.

When Carole Lieberman, MD, a Beverly Hills psychiatrist, was 8 years old, she began telling her parents, and anyone else who would listen, that she wanted to be a doctor. That’s because of a book she read on Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female American physician.

Later, she would complete an internship at the New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children, which was founded by Blackwell in 1857, and today is known as Lower Manhattan Hospital.

“When I walked into the New York Infirmary to start the internship, there in the entrance to the lobby was a statue of Elizabeth Blackwell,” Lieberman recalls. “It was like, ‘you made the right choice, and fate brought you here.’ It was a chilling moment.”

America’s psychiatrist

Lieberman became interested in psychiatry as a teenager when she read Interpretation of Dreams by psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. Granted, the writing was more sophisticated than her teenage thinking at the time, but the subject matter resonated with her.

“Even in a relatively unsophisticated form, I had thought of those things,” Lieberman explains. “In kindergarten and subsequent to that, I was always trying to figure out what these little kids were thinking. I wanted to be accepted and liked, and so I spent a lot of mental energy trying to figure out the kids around me. So then I’m a teenager and I read Interpretation of Dreams and I said, ‘Yes.’ It gave me the language to put my thoughts into words. And I have never looked back.”

Lieberman has since been recognized for her incomparable talents by The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, which awarded her with 3 Emmys. She has published numerous books, including the award-winning Bad Girls: Why Men Love Them and How Good Girls Can Learn Their Secrets. But it has been some of the work she has done post 9/11 that she says she is most proud of.

Fighting for a cause

One morning, Lieberman was reading the Los Angeles Times when she spotted an article about how a major motion picture studio had purchased ad space for an upcoming action film on the exterior of a NASA rocket.

“I thought it was a fake newspaper,” Lieberman says. “I couldn’t believe that NASA was selling ad space on the outside of their rocket, first of all. That was so tacky. And second, to have the first ad bought by a violent movie. I am an activist against media violence. I have protested outside movie theatres, and held press conferences about violent media issues. This is a big passion of mine.”

That began a 3-and-a-half-month campaign to have the ad removed. Lieberman held news conferences and disseminated contact information for the motion picture studio and the NASA hotline. One person at NASA told her the agency was so flooded with faxes they were “pulling their hair out.”

In the end, the launch was cancelled. The private companies that had research materials on board pulled out; they did not want to be associated with a rocket that had received so much negative publicity.

“I said that if the ad didn’t come off I was going down to the launch pad and would tie myself to the rocket,” Lieberman says. “And I was serious.”

Fear of terrorism

Shortly thereafter, Lieberman penned Coping With Terrorism: Dreams Interrupted.

“I think the economic problem in our country has to do with terrorism,” she says. “People are sleeping less, their sleep is more disturbed because they’re worried … it’s cognitive dissonance. People are pretending to themselves that they’re not scared, but on another level, they are.

“Unconsciously we haven’t gotten over 9/11, and every day there’s something in the newspapers that relates to terrorism,” she continues. “But most of the time people are in denial, and I think this is the most important thing: To wake people up so that they can do something about it. Change their life that makes them healthier to withstand the memories.”

Along those lines, Lieberman created Shrink on Board, a relaxation channel that soothes people’s fears in the air, and on the ground.

“After 9/11, people were more fearful of flying,” she explains. “[The program] was aimed at helping calm their fears, but also relieve general anxiety.”

Not star-struck

Lieberman has been described in the media as the “shrink to the stars” because of the clientele who frequent her Beverly Hills, CA, practice. But Lieberman, herself, is not star-struck by her role in helping celebrities who are often hoisted on a pedestal as being perfect.

That goes back to her residency when she was assigned a famous actress as a patient. The woman was older, and Lieberman was not familiar with her work. But everyone around her turned it into a big deal.

“I had to learn how to treat this famous person as if she wasn’t special,” Lieberman said. “Because as a doctor and psychiatrist, if you get intimidated by them, their treatment goes down the tubes. And I saw that first hand. You might make some accommodations for a period of time, but on the whole you need to maintain the boundaries. Otherwise, they don’t respect or listen to you, and they don’t get the help they need.”

Reaching the masses

Over the years Lieberman has built a reputation as a psychiatric expert witness who has testified in high-profile trials, as well as analyzing trials in the media. She can also be heard weekly as the host of Dr. Carole’s Couch, an Internet radio show on voiceamerica.com. And it’s the latter role, along with the books she has written, that Lieberman says is the most rewarding part of her career because she can reach a larger audience.

“When someone comes up to me and says, ‘I read your book and it really helped me,’ or, ‘I just hear you talking on the radio,’ it boggles my mind that people are listening,” she says. “I love being able to reach more people.”