The good doctor
Dr. Stephen Milstein, Whistler's only registered psychologist, provides an alternate take on the resort's mental state
By Don Anderson
The first thing that you notice upon entering psychologist Dr. Stephen Milstein's office are his chairs.
Boy, do they look comfortable and inviting. They're more than a hundred years old, he proudly states. No need for a couch, here. And if you are a bit weary about privacy, there's a back door to the main office that you can slip through unnoticed.
Private and comfortable.
That's just the environment that Milstein aims to create for his patients, many of whom come to him when they have no one else to turn to.
Milstein, a somewhat gangly, bespeckled yet hip therapist — his eyeglass frames match his earring — has been a psychologist for 22 years, and practising in the clinical sense for four years. He charges $95 for a 50-55 minute session, and dedicates roughly 35-40 hours a week to the position.
Like many other Whistler residents, Milstein came to Whistler for a lifestyle change. As well as being the only registered psychologist at the resort, he is also the only male therapist available.
"There are people in this community who have emotional problems," he says. But unlike the counsellors interviewed for last week's segment, Milstein says this community's problems are not so different from any other community's.
The people who he sees are from every walk of life, from people with drinking problems to families trying to cope with their internal relationship ordeals.
"I did a fairly thorough assessment of whether this community needed a psychologist," he says. "I actually spent six weeks here talking to health care professionals, social service providers and business people in the community."
The need was obviously there.
But the question of whether this is a mentally healthy community is altogether different.
"I think if we look at the mental health of the community I think we have to look at several things," says Milstein. "When you live in this community, what kinds of stresses are you subjected to?
"I think to look at this community and to make a broad statement of whether it is healthy or not does not make a lot of sense to me. I think the demographics of this community are different, and I think it's the demographics that make the difference."
Milstein is "very busy." During the week of this particular interview he was working full time. His chairs were full.
Ironically, most people aren't aware the community has a full-time registered psychologist in its midst, says Milstein.
"A lot of people know I'm here," he say, "but I suspect that a lot of people don't know there's a psychologist here."
The future of Milstein's practice looks promising. With more people choosing to discuss their problems with a professional therapist, Milstein can expect to fill those antique chairs on a regular basis.
He also expects that this trend will inevitably lead to an increase in the number of professional therapists who choose the mountains over the city scapes to wield their therapeutic powers.