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While therapy may have played a role in Sexton's early recovery, it also became, in part, her downfall. As long as psychotherapy has existed and continues to persist in practice, there have been and will inevitably be ethical conundrums pertaining to confidentiality, doctor-patient relationships and more. Nowhere are these issues better highlighted than in the life of Sexton who not only endured nearly every breach of doctor-patient ethics imaginable, but continues to undergo significant victim-blaming across disciplines, including allegations that she was responsible for seducing her doctors. (I think we'd like to believe mental health practices and laws have since come a long way.) Sander speculated about what responsibilities the community must take on so as to not become complacent about these betrayals of the system, noting we must understand why ethical breaches happen in the first place. Sander also posited Sexton's 1974 suicide was preventable.(http://nypress.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/annesexton.jpg) Her first therapist, Dr. Martin Orne, with whom Sexton taped all her therapy sessions, producing the infamous Sexton therapy tapes, encouraged her to begin writing poetry again as a cathartic process after a ten year hiatus. While the purpose behind the tapings is ultimately unclear, Sexton did note she hoped they might someday help others who were suffering. Poetry often fulfills a similar role. Skorczewski noted it was only at the end of the taped sessions-the final sixth months-that she, Skorczewski, could start to listen with a mind toward writing about them for her book, as Sexton's most crushing depression seemed to have lifted. Both Sander and Skorczewski place great weight on the power and sway of therapy in Sexton's life. Her second therapist, Dr. Frederick Duhl, would begin a sexual relationship with Sexton, which, coupled with other events, would spur a downward spiral, though Sander actually blames, in part, Sexton's more platonic relationship with Dr. Orne for her ultimate downfall. Sander said the more she grew to love and depend on her therapists, particularly Dr. Orne, the more she struggled at home and felt like a prisoner in an unfulfilling marriage. According to Skorczewski, Sexton approached suicide differently from how we might think of it:"Her idea of suicide was going back into the womb," offered Skorczewski. "It was a warm, cozy space-intimate, like home." Interestingly, Skorczewski said Sexton perceived Dr. Duhl (with whom she had the sexual relationship) as a sort of mother figure, one who could channel the comforts of home. Sander and Skorczewski agreed had the therapeutic process been different for her, it may have helped Sexton stay alive rather than allowing her to succumb to mental illness. If the experts blame Sexton for seducing her doctor, they seem equally to hold the doctors accountable for her death. Both strike me as potentially damaging oversimplifications. Ultimately, Skorczewski noted, Sexton became "unraveled" when Dr. Orne got married unbeknownst to her.Furthering the commonly held notion that mental illness is often romanticized in artists, she added, however: "She wrote beautiful poems when unraveling."
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