Some Agents Turning to Therapy Over Fight With Writers

There's been a notable uptick in the number of agents seeking mental health assistance since the fight over packaging fees started heating up: "It's all anyone is talking about, and everyone is beyond stressed."
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While the battle between agents and writers threatens to upend the industry, it's apparently been a boon for one part of L.A.'s economy — therapists.

Multiple sources tell Rambling Reporter that business is thriving for therapists who treat Hollywood insiders, particularly film and TV literary agents who have been at the center of the debacle. “It’s a mess,” one veteran rep says. “It’s all anyone is talking about and everyone is beyond stressed out.”

Dennis Palumbo, a licensed psychotherapist with 30 years of experience and a career that also includes 17 years as a TV and film writer (Welcome Back Kotter, My Favorite Year), says, “There’s no question that there has been an increase in anxiety and the beginnings of depression in the face of this impasse, with people worrying both about what it will do to them financially as well as personally how it will feel to be abandoned by their clients. Agents are people, too, and most don’t want their clients to leave them. … Creativity is so rewarded and lauded, and the work you’ve done to make that opportunity happen is so invisible. Then for you to be abandoned by that person by a guild that vilifies you on a personal level — that’s very hard for them.”

In his practice, Palumbo says he’s seen the anxieties mutate in the form of more drug abuse, alcoholism and financial fears. “A lot of agents live on the edge of what they can afford,” he says. “So there are some real financial concerns there.”

Not that anybody is talking openly about it, however. “Agencies operate like a corporate world and corporate structure and, like anybody in a corporation, nobody wants the CEO to think there’s anything wrong with them, so very few people admit that they are seeking therapy.”

The opposite can be said of his writer clients, Palumbo adds, as they are quite open and transparent. “My writer patients talk about these issues all day long.” (For the record, with his résumé, Palumbo says, “I can understand why writers are frustrated.”)

One veteran rep says even though more of her peers may be seeking help currently, “most of those agents are in therapy already,” adding, “they are just upping their time” on the couch.

A version of this story first appeared in the April 11 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.