Therapy? You’ll need an alias first…

I remember first broaching the subject with the publisher: “I’d like to retain a therapist, to assist my understanding of Britney.”

It was clear from the hesitant response that my editor thought I’d already spent way too much time in LA (and I hadn’t even admitted my appointments with a herbalist, or a newly acquired taste for soy latte)

“Maybe you’ll need therapy AFTER this project, not during,” said a friend.

But with this, my first foray into the unofficial biography genre, I wanted to make a serious attempt at understanding Britney’s personal struggle; to examine a previously unexamined – but often easily judged – life. My curiosity didn’t want to imagine her inner-workings based on meticulous research. It wanted to take her childhood, environment, patterns, idiosyncracies, behaviours and fame – and examine them with an expert, based on the insights, accounts and observations of those who know her best. Mapping out the events and circumstances of this life would help explain the person she’d become and the troubles she’d face. It would also provide something that had been hitherto lacking in the Britney Spears saga: understanding.

This biographical departure into the territory of ‘The Road Less Travelled’ required courage from the publisher, and we both knew the risks of becoming too worthy for a demographic that perhaps enjoyed the froth of entertainment news. Indeed, on submission of the manuscript, I wondered whether the therapist’s input, interweaved throughout the narrative, would be simply struck out and left on the cutting room floor. But I was determined that ‘In treatment’ would meet ‘biography’, and prove effective.

So it was, on a day in early February 2009, that I entered my first psychotherapy session, armed with intimate information from several sources who’d been persuaded that my intentions were compassionate. It was in this private house, on the outskirts of 90210 district, that I spent up to six hours-a-week for the next three months, adopting a viewpoint that always began: “If I’m Britney, what does this mean….how would this affect me?”

“Is this ethical?” asked Good Day LA’s host Steve last week. Well, no confidentialities were breached and there was no conflict of interest. In the same way a criminologist stands on the edges to offer invaluable insights based on the evidence before them, so a biographer & psychotherapist can surely collaborate to understand one of the biggest pop stars of our time, in the public interest. Indeed, a trained psychotherapist can breakdown information about a person based on that person’s history, and provide a sufficient understanding of the dynamics at play, without the subject being there. Surely, this method counter-balanced the countless amateur psychologists who’d already reached a diagnosis based on nothing more substantive than media reports and demonic-looking photographs.

For me, the insights that informed this book remain invaluable. The reader feedback to date has vindicated the decision to incorporate psychotherapy into this project. Fans now ‘get it’, it seems. But does the media? Publicity in the UK was scant. The media wasn’t interested. Britain’s stiff upper-lips didn’t wish to discuss psychotherapy. But I did think that in America the value of such psychological insights would stand a better chance of being embraced. In this land of self-growth and self-development, surely the insights would be picked up, dissected and truly examined?

And then last Thursday, the media went mad for the insights within this book. “We’ve made Page Six!” said the PR, “And Perez Hilton. And OK! magazine! And WENN! Plus countless entertainment news web-sites, from Australia to India.”

What was the line they all ran with? Yup, ‘BRITNEY’S HOTEL ALIASES REVEALED’ – as taken from the shortest snippet within the Backstage chapter.

‘Earth-shattering revelations!’ mocked the 3am column in London. Froth mocking froth. Accordingly, the media found much merriment in dissecting why she used names such as Ms Alotta Warmheart and Queen of the Fairy Dance. Froth rules, it seems. As an author seeking publicity to get the book on people’s radars, I cannot complain. But it seems therapy insights won’t trump the light, trite & shite of entertainment froth – and especially when it gives the media the chance to mock Britney.  It’s a PR lesson that’s proved hard to swallow. Maybe I’m naive. Maybe it’s me. I think I need to go back into therapy…

2 Responses to “Therapy? You’ll need an alias first…”

  1. H says:

    Steve,

    Loving your blog pieces, missing your banter here in Leeds. But I know LA will be lapping you and your personality up, you’re only just lifting the seal and the world doesn’t quite know it… yet. Just wait til the words Steve Dennis are on every body’s lips…or should that be Waterstones lists….
    xx

  2. Steve Dennis says:

    H!!! If only it were one year ago and we were looking forward to Miami!! thank you for
    your kind words and support. Would prefer my name on Waterstones’ lists as opposed
    to everyone’s lips but there we are. See you soon super-woman! – Steve

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