A compelling memoir of a psychotherapist’s clinical and personal education amid chaos and dysfunction that delivers an emotional impact to rival Susan Sheehan’s classic Is There No Place on Earth for Me?
Seven years after her college graduation, Darcy Lockman abandoned a career in magazine journalism to become a psychologist. After four years in classrooms, she spent her final training year at the Kings County Hospital, an aging public institution on the outskirts of Brooklyn. When she started, little did she know that the hospital’s behavioral health department—the infamous G Building, where the Son of Sam serial killer David Berkowitz and the rapper Ol’ Dirty Bastard once resided—was on the cusp of its darkest era yet, one that culminated in the death of a patient in a psychiatric emergency room described by the New York Post as a “Dickensian nightmare.”
Brooklyn Zoo unfolds amid the constant drama and disorder of the G Building. Lockman rotates through four departments, each of which presents new challenges and haunting cases. She works with forensic psychologists to evaluate offenders for fitness to stand trial—almost all of them with pathos-filled histories and little hope of rehabilitation. The thorny politics of the psych ER compound her anxiety about working with its volatile patients, but under the wing of a charismatic if brusque mentor she gains a deeper insight into her new profession as well as into her own strengths and limitations.
As she moves to the inpatient ward and then psychiatric consultation liaison, Lockman’s overstretched supervisors and the institutional preference for pills over therapy are persistent obstacles. But they eventually present a young clinician with the opportunity to reexamine everything she believes and to come out stronger on the other side.
Lockman’s frank portrayal of her fledgling role in a warped system is a professional coming-of-age story that will resonate with anyone who has fought to develop career mastery in a demanding environment. A stark portrait of the struggling public mental-health-care system, Brooklyn Zoo is also an homage to the doctors who remain committed to their patients in spite of institutional failures and to the patients who strive to get better with their help. And it is an inspiring first-hand account by a narrator who triumphs over self-doubt to believe in the rightness and efficacy of her chosen profession.
About the Author
Darcy Lockman, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist in private practice in New York City. She received her Ph.D. at the Derner Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies at Adelphi University. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, Psychology Today, and Rolling Stone, among other publications. She lives with her family in Queens.
Advance Praise for Brooklyn Zoo
“‘Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here’ might well be the words above the door of Kings County Hospital’s notorious G Building. Serial killer Son of Sam and rap legend Ol’ Dirty Bastard punched their tickets at this under-funded, over-crowded mental hospital; so does Darcy Lockman, a wet-behind-the-ears psych intern fresh out of graduate school. She can empathize with the human flotsam washed up on the outer edge of outer Brooklyn—the white folks get sent to Bellevue, in Manhattan—but more to the point, she can write. Brooklyn Zoo is a sorrowful and fascinating portrait of the institutional underworld where criminality and mental illness co-exist, and patients find themselves at the mercy of a medical-penal complex ill-equipped to either cure or punish them.”
—Alex Beam, author of Gracefully Insane: Life and Death Inside America’s Premier Mental Hospital
“Reading Brooklyn Zoo is like getting a nightly e-mail from your best friend as she explores the far side of the moon. I gasped at what she saw and alternately winced and cheered at her responses. A smart, delightful surprise of a book.”
—Susan Baur, author of The Dinosaur Man: Tales of Madness and Enchantment from the Back Ward
“Brooklyn Zoo takes us to places where very, very few of us would ever go—or want to go. This interesting memoir deals with situations which might be considered hopeless with great compassion and clarity. For so many of these people, mental illness is the least of their worries but the most of their handicaps. An insight therapist is at a huge disadvantage, and Lockman feels it deeply. She cares about people in a way that few of us dare.”
—Joanne Greenberg, author of I Never Promised You a Rose Garden
"A former journalist, Lockman delivers fascinating revelations.... [A] good story."—Melissa Maerz, Entertainment Weekly
"Darcy Lockman left her journalism career to become a psychotherapist. Clearly a gifted writer, the decision could not have been easy. But she made it and stuck with it.... Brooklyn Zoo, to be released in July 2012, is expertly written: The prose flows, the pacing is even, and the structure is well crafted. As well, the content—the story—is utterly fascinating.... It is...an intelligently written, sobering look at what it takes to be a psychotherapist.... It’s the kind of book you don’t want to rush through; you want to dwell on each chapter, and meditate on Lockman’s experiences to get a fuller sense of what she saw. With a unique voice and a knack for painting verbal portraits, Lockman has delivered a rare gem."—Dan Berkowitz, Psych Central
"The challenges facing a psychotherapist during a yearlong internship in a New York City public hospital.
Based on her own positive experience in psychoanalysis, Lockman pursued an education in the psychoanalytic tradition, which included supervised therapy with clients, one of whom she saw over a three-year period. She explains that this put her at odds with the mainstream of the profession today because of “the pernicious hostility toward the psychoanalytical way of working,” which often dismisses psychological problems as “nothing more than chemical occurrences in the brain.” She chronicles her initial frustration with her inability to put her education and skills to good use and her dawning understanding that the chaotic conditions at the hospital often made her skills irrelevant anyway. Her patients constantly struggled with the brutal conditions of inner-city life, job loss, random violence and more. The author eventually realized that the most important gift she could give them was her willingness to listen to their concerns and treat them with respect, while evaluating whether they should be released or sent to long-term care...
Before returning to graduate school Lockman worked as a magazine journalist, a skill she puts to good use in this insider's look at the practice of psychiatry in a poorly funded, understaffed public institution."—Kirkus