Author and journalism professor Susan Shapiro says “shrinks saved my life,” referring to how therapists helped her kick her cigarette and marijuana addictions. So it isn’t surprising that Shapiro decided that the launch party for her new novel, Speed Shrinking, out today from St. Martin’s, would entail guest “therapists” offering quick advice sessions to party guests. The event took place last night at Knickerbocker Bar and Grill on University Place in Greenwich Village. About 100 guests—publishing people, writers, the media, and some of Shapiro’s favorite students—lined up for three-minute sessions with seven authors of self-help books, sipping cocktails and rotating between the booths that line Knickerbocker’s dining room. Shapiro's publicist, Barb Burg, explained it as “speed dating with shrinks.”

In Speed Shrinking, Julia Goodman has written a book about overcoming sugar addiction, and her Today Show appearance to promote the book is compromised by her own relapse and newfound cupcake addiction. At the same time, Julia’s shrink has left town, so she resorts to frantically seeking out and seeing eight different shrinks in eight days, in the hope of not only shrinking her body, but also her anxiety about her forthcoming TV appearance.

Shapiro invited seven friends—who’ve all written books in various self-help subgenres—to give free, three-minute counseling sessions to partygoers. The authors—Diana Kirschner (Love In 90 Days), Sherry Amatenstein (The Complete Marriage Counselor), Jonathan Fast (Ceremonial Violence), Frank Flaherty (The Elements of Story), Sherene Schostak (Surviving Saturn's Return), Connie Bennett (Sugar Shock) and Elizabeth Maxwell (Food for the Soul)—ranged in their areas of expertise, from relationships to family to health to astrology. They all had the opportunity to sell their books at the party. As an added bonus, Shapiro’s agent and editor took booths to give advice to aspiring writers.

“Being a freelance writer is tough, and therapy saved my career,” said Shapiro, joking that being a writing teacher is like being a shrink, “but we get paid less.” Shapiro is hosting a series of speed shrinking parties where several “real” therapists that she used as inspiration for some of the characters in Speed Shrinking will participate. The next one is for charity at Housing Works Bookstore Café on August 26, 7-8:30 p.m.