New York City
Director of the Institute for Behavior Therapy in Manhattan, author and "psychollectibles" collector
An office with history
When he's not treating clients for anxiety and depression, Lubetkin is trawling flea markets, eBay and auctions for what he calls "psychollectibles" — any vintage, antique and collectible items that relate to psychology. He's amassed 100 such pieces since he started his collection 20 years ago and displays them in his office. Among his favorites are two issues of the 1950s comic book series "Psychoanalysis," an autographed note from William James declining a party invitation and a 1913 paper titled "Psychology as the Behaviorist Views It" on which the father of behaviorism, John Watson, wrote, "Here is where I broke away from the old psychology period. Since this article I have not been a very popular man."
"I found that on an autograph dealer's website years ago, and I don't think he realized the particular significance," Lubetkin says.
A humorous mindset
The centerpiece of his collection is a 1940s-era, 5-and-a-half-foot steel sign reading "Mind Healer" that publicized a Coney Island psychic's tent. "I always tell patients I am not that presumptuous," he says. Lubetkin found the sign at a New York City flea market, one of the more than 500 auctions and markets he's visited to amass his collection.
A neighborhood treasure
Lubetkin's enthusiasm for antiquing dates to his childhood in Greenwich Village, where his family lived above his father's antique store, Ye Olde Treasure Shoppe. "Everyone knew about his store because he had some of the wildest antiques," including shrunken heads from Java and Japanese suits of armor, says Lubetkin. Beat Generation writers Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg were frequent patrons. "They would buy stuff, and my dad would sit around with them and chat them up," he remembers.
Physicians have it easy: Lubetkin has found that stockpiling psychology relics is more challenging than unearthing medical or dental memorabilia. "You can always find old eye charts and surgical instruments, but there's not as much out there for psychology," he says. But the hunt keeps him passionate about the profession and has become one more way to connect with clients, who ask about his artifacts. "My collection communicates my love for psychology, and I think that communicates a lot of self-confidence in the therapy process," he says.
A "psychollectible" collection
Each month, "Random Sample" profiles an APA member. You may be next.
Letters to the Editor
- Send us a letter