Shrink Rap: Dr. Paul, Insights in The Age of Corona

Dr. Paul Hokemeyer

Shrink Rap: Dr. Paul, Insights in The Age of Corona

A Telluride local, Dr. Paul Hokemeyer is an internationally recognized expert on treating clinical issues at the nexus of relationships and behavioral health.

Dr. Paul’s new book, Fragile Power. is about the psychological challenges of celebrity, Go here for our review.

The following is a note from Dr. Paul in the Age of Corona. As always, his clear-eyed insights serve as an antidote to wrong-minded or “zombie” ideas that somehow manage to persist and chomp on our brains.

Dr. Paul Hokemeyer

Greetings from COVID19, 2020.

The world, and the practice of psychotherapy, is in the midst of a significant transformation.


Social distancing is the opposite of what most people dealing with substance use disorders, addiction, or mental health conditions need in their day-to-day life. Recovery of any kind generally depends on interaction, building connections, and reparative relationships with other humans-not isolation. In fact, behavioral health issues thrive in isolation and are cured in human relationships. So, how can we continue to heal our wounds during a pandemic that demands social distancing, self-quarantining, and personal isolation?

The short answer is that while we quarantine, we have to look for deeper, richer, reparative ways to connect with each other in a new world order. We need to move toward the “caremongering” that has begun to take hold in parts of the world, and away from the “scaremongering” that is found abundantly in the news and on social media.


As a therapist, my work cultivating reparative connections has required me to “fast track” newly emerging technologies and practices such as telemedicine and online therapy. They are the closest thing to having a “session” in a world where we’re mindfully “distancing” and “sheltering in place.” Over the past two weeks, I’ve been bunkered down in my home office, iBuds in my ears, having online therapy sessions. Many of my clients are struggling with feeling disconnected, anxious, and unsure about the future as chaos and uncertainty loom darkly over our world.


One of the most memorable of these sessions involved a woman of great professional power. The client, a successful founder and entrepreneur, had overcome extraordinary odds to attain professional success and material wealth in the male-dominated field of real estate financing. Prior to the “shelter in place” orders that were handed down, we’d been meeting regularly in person to treat the addictive disorder that had erupted at the height of her success. When I asked how she was doing, her answer reflected a sense of humility that I’d never before seen in the three months of sessions we’d completed. As the world’s focus had shifted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, her own perspective had shifted as well.

Instead of seeing herself as a master who lorded over of the universe, she had started seeing herself as a grateful member of a global community. It’s a common theme I’m hearing at this time, as we all adjust to our new-found vulnerability.

“Mother nature is mad. Furious actually,” she said.

Up until this most recent session, this client had fought against even the suggestion of humility and took great pride in the power, wealth, and material possessions her professional success provided. She wore them like a bullet-proof vest that would keep her safe and powerful. But key to anyone’s recovery is humbly understanding that addiction, like any disease, is an illness with a physiological root that we’re physically powerless to alter.

This pandemic is a watershed moment in our human experience for many reasons, but for many professionally powerful people, it’s introduced the notion of ‘powerless’ and its accompanying sense of humility and empathy back into their mindset; and with humility we are able to connect to our shared humanity, and with each other.

My client’s observations also captured the concerns that have consumed me on a personal level for the past several years: Long before this viral pandemic came into being, I’d been troubled by the pandemic of hubris and misaligned power that has been destroying our world, apace.


Through my research and clinical practice, I’ve been shown time and time again that “power” as we’ve come to define it-wealth, privilege, position, celebrity-doesn’t prevent us from experiencing pain, illness, disease, or suffering. We expect wealth and attainment to make us impermeable, omnipotent, and untouchable. But crisis of any kind reminds us of just how fragile we truly are.

In my book, “Fragile Power: Why Having Everything is Never Enough,” I address how power and hubris distort our individual and relational well-being. Over the last few weeks, the findings of my book have played out loudly and painfully on an international stage. What we’ve seen is that when aggression and hubris reach toxic levels, the universe steps in and recalibrates to establish a new sense of order.

One of my patients based in New York City, a communication executive, described the coronavirus crisis as a “slow-moving, global 9-11.” Another patient-a high-profile entertainment lawyer-was struck by the universal implications. “This has no boundaries,” he declared with wonderful insight. “It’s affecting everyone regardless of religion, race, economic status, sexual identity…age. It will forever change the course of humanity.”


As scary as that sounds, I pray his premonition is right.

Today, our survival depends on both individual and global realignments. We must move from the shadow of hubris into the light of humility. We must honor Mother Nature rather than exploiting her; we must increase our compassion rather than our consumption; we must worship the golden rule rather than a golden calf; and, we must unite ourselves in a symphony of “we” rather than focusing on the cacophony of “me.”


I am optimistic we will succeed in this task. I’ve seen glorious transformations occur in my clients as they’ve healed and grown-not by acquiring power and things, but rather by embracing humility when confronting the fragility of life. My prayer is that once through this pandemic we will surrender our hubris, our addiction to toxic power and assume more humility and compassionate relationships with each other and the natural world we’ve been given the privilege to inhabit.

In health and repair,

Dr Paul

Dr. Paul, more:

Dr. Paul Hokemeyer

Dr. Paul Hokemeyer

Paul Hokemeyer , J.D., Ph.D., is an internationally renowned Marriage and Family Therapist licensed in the states of New York and Colorado. He appears regularly in a variety of media outlets including CNN, FOX News, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. In addition to maintaining a clinical and consulting practice, he works as a case manager to ultra high net worth and celebrity patients to ensure they obtain the highest level of clinical care.

You can read more about Dr. Paul and his work at

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