Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Henry Krystal - September 19, 1996

Decision to Become a Psychiatrist

Wh...when did you decide on psychiatry?

Not 'til the, the end of medical school did I even start thinking about it consciously. But um, and I really liked internal medicine, I was going to go into internal medicine. But in retrospect I feel that the, the uh, contact with John Dorsey had a very big influence on me and uh, it started my own process of working on myself. So, in, during my internship I called him and I said, "I decided to go into psychiatry. Where would you recommend?" And he said, without hesitation, "Receiving Hospital." And uh, that was during my internship and I had already started my analysis while I was doing my internship. I was going to El...I was interning at Eloise. And uh, started analysis in Gross Pointe. And uh, uh, so I was kind of driven, you might say. It took me some time before I made the first attempt to learn to play, to play in any way.

No fun. You think this haunted you, is that part of the reason?

Yes. Well uh, it, it was this insecurity, a need to, to work and to uh, to, to learn. I was very, very curious and I was uh, really regretting that I couldn't go on uh, with uh, the whole field of medicine. I was curious about the whole field of medicine and eventually I, I tried to integrate psychiatry with the rest of the medicine as much as possible.

Um, d...do you think there are certain times or objects or events, sounds, smells that maybe trigger a memory from uh, wartime experiences?

Well, I, I think so and I, and I think that particularly uh, it was very, was very difficult for me uh, in working with Holocaust survivors and especially depressed ones. It brings back the whole thing. And also the, the defenses, you know.

You've worked with a lot of them.


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