Dr. Alden Cass, “therapist to the Stars Wall Street-ers,” has an enormous, framed poster of Wall Street behind his desk. Cass, who refers to himself as a “performance enhancement strategist,” is a psychologist who specializes in curing the psychoses of investment bankers, stockbrokers and the like. Our Q&A after the jump...
The doc founded Catalyst Strategies Group, Inc. (CSG) in response to his research findings, which "found stockbrokers to be at a higher risk for mental health problems such as burnout, emotional exhaustion, substance abuse, major depression and anxiety disorders than the general population." He "works with financial advisors and traders to modify behaviors that are hampering their performance and to give them the mental edge within competative work environments," or something to that effect. On Friday, June 16, I took the DealBreaker limo over to Alden Cass’s (AC's) office to find out what kind of mental problems investment bankers could possibly have (because for the right price, let's face it, you can buy mental health).
Having recently suffered with a bout of carpal tunnel syndrome, rendering my right hand/wrist/forearm considerably weaker than my left, I thought it significant that the first thing Dr. Cass did when I walked into his office was put a stress ball—designed to look like a baseball—in my hand, which apparently he gives to all new clients. Wonderful, I thought to myself, now I can squeeze my way back to good health—and I didn’t even have to discuss Freud’s oral, anal and phallic stages, and which one I was currently occupying. Scrawled across the stress toy: "Don't aim, just throw the ball." Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen glared at me from behind Cass’s desk and I noticed that Cass's white and blue pinstriped shirt with big white cuffs matched Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen's outfits perfectly. I don't think it was a coincidence.
DealBreaker: Is Alden Cass your real name? I’m asking because it has a sort of Carmen Electra (née Tara Leigh Patrick) gloss to it.
AC: Yes. It’s good for media.
How did you get interested in stockbrokers?
I was doing clinical work in grad school and was working with anxious, depressed patients. One of my best friends at the time was working at a brokerage house and I watched his personality change completely. He became angry and was cursing all the time. I was wondering how on earth a person’s personality can change within a span of five months.
How do you gain people’s trust?
A sales pitch.
I tell people that they’re wrong.
Could you elaborate?
I tell guys that aren’t used to hearing that they’re wrong, that they’re wrong; and through that you gain respect points.
Like street cred?
Is there an element to your interaction with the patients of not just being a psychologist but also a kind of career coach?
I don’t like the term career coach; it’s too hokey for me. I’m like a performance enhancement strategist.
Okay, so then if someone comes in who’s clearly under some sort of distress, do you focus on making his life better or his job productivity?
This is how it usually works. The males come in and say “I want to make more money.” And I teach them the skills to do that. In essence what I practice is what I created; it’s called Lifestyle Portfolio Management. I take on the role of what a financial planner does in terms of investments; I tell people, “You gotta diversify your portfolio!” And sometimes we talk about how they don’t talk to their wives.
The Wall Street Journal dubbed you “The Frazier Crane of Wall Street.” How do you feel about that? Would you rather be Niles?
No. I’d rather be neither; they’re too touchy-feely. I’d rather be Dr. Phil.
Who would you rather have as a client, Gordon Gekko or Seth Davis?
Gordon Gekko. He’s a results oriented guy; he’d have me workin’ for him [sic].
Let’s talk tension release; do you have any clients who use the West Garden Spa?
No, what’s that?
It’s a massage parlor of sorts; a lot of Wall Street-ers go there for massages et al.
Do you find any of your patients have fidelity problems with their wives?
Actually, I find that it’s the opposite. A lot of these guys are in their 30s and 40s and they’re going from living on the Upper East Side to Greenwich, CT or New Jersey or Long Island and, you know, the wives are left alone with the kids and they’re not communicating. And the husbands aren’t properly micromanaging their wives. And then all of a sudden [gets huge smile on his face] the electrician comes by during the day [smile gets broader] or the UPS guy [is practically giggling at this point] and… [Trails off; I’m supposed to “get” what he’s referring to.]
Can you give me a profile of one of your craziest patients?
Well…hmm…well I’d say one of my craziest patients—and I don’t like to use the word crazy—
No, I don’t like to use that either—
Reckless. I had a guy, 26, caught up in making money, very caught up in the allure of the social life.
I mean, um, sure; but more like cocaine abuse and late-night hours.
You have something called a Channeled Rage Workshop. I’m going to read you two statements and you tell me which, if either, qualify for the workshop. The first is an exchange between two people.
“Don't you have a canoli you can stick in your mouth?” “Don't you have a menorah you could shove up your ass?” is the first.
“When I get a hold of the son of a bitch who leaked this I’m going to tear his eyeballs out” is the second.Does either of those…qualify?
The first, no. That’s just guys being guys. The second yes, I’d say that qualifies.
You have an advice column in Trader Daily. Would you call yourself the “Dear Abby of Trading”?
No, “The Hitch for Traders.”
Will Smith fan?
You know, he’s somewhat entertaining.
You’ve talked exclusively about male patients; do you see any women?
Much fewer; when I do have women come in I talk to them in the same way as I do the men; which is kind of funny because that's not how I do it in my day to day life.
Do a lot of your patients have the "don't pitch the bitch mentality"? As in, do you encounter a lot of misogynists?
It’s more of the….umm…you know, I was in a fraternity when I was younger—
TKE. It’s like, it’s like being on a baseball team. It’s guys being guys. Like, you know, it’s like a team, it’s just a lifestyle.
Hence the baseball stress ball?
Yeah. I like to deal in sports metaphors. I played baseball.
What’s your favorite sports metaphor?
“Don’t aim, just throw the ball.” It’s on the stress ball.
What are your second and third favorites?
“Keep your eye on the ball” and “Swing through the hitting zone.”
What else do you tell your patients?
I teach them “Act as if” tips, which is from the movie Boiler Room. “Always be closing” is a good one, too. A lot of my workshops have Gekko quotes, too. I also like “Don’t get emotional about stocks; it clouds your judgment.”
Well, I think you’ve answered all my questions.
I’m upset you didn’t talk about American Psycho.
Okay, what would you like to tell me about American Psycho?
I mean, that’s a classic; the business card scene, the Valentino couture suits. You know, sometimes, my office, at night, is like a fashion show. You see one designer suit better than the next.
Well, thanks for taking the time to talk with me today.
In the limo back to DealBreaker HQs, I began to wonder—since I had forgotten to ask—what people pay for this kind of thing. I immediately emailed the doc, who replied with:
“Anywhere between $250-350 per hour. 350 is our Back in 45 Service which is described on my website which involves me going off site to their offices, or restaurants for coaching. The cost of the dinner or lunch is on the client and their choices are usually impressive.”
$350, eh? Not too steep, but if you're trying to cut back on expenses, I recommend visiting your local Blockbuster; for $4.50 you get pretty much the same exact thing, though, sadly, no stress ball. Which I have to say, is kind of a deal breaker. My wrist’s feeling better already.