On a Sunday morning in 1963 Theodore Millon woke up in a Pennsylvania hospital. He was in bed at a psychiatric ward shared by 30 patients. One of them thought he was Jesus Christ, another believed he was the pope, and a third claimed he was a corporate CEO who had been hospitalized by mistake. Millon began to fret. “I am wearing a hospital gown like all the other patients,” he thought. “Am I really a professor of psychology? Or did I just imagine that?”
Apprehensive, he went to the nurses’ station and called the head of the hospital. His anxiety finally eased when the director confirmed that he was, in fact, a clinical psychology professor at Lehigh University and chair of the board of trustees at Allentown State Hospital who was voluntarily spending the weekend in the psychiatric ward. “That experience shocked me, and I never spent another night there,” Millon remembers, although he would still occasionally walk incognito among the patients.
This article was originally published with the title Seeing the Person in the Patient.