Annie’s Mailbox for July 2, 2011: Readers respond to doubt about counseling’s effectiveness, Day 2
July 2, 2011
Dear Readers: As promised, one more day on counseling:
Dear Annie: Is counseling helpful? You bet. Every person sees a situation differently. Counselors give us a viewfinder into the other side so we can empathize and understand. They teach us that conflict is normal and healthy and give us the skills to fight fair. Counselors help us see how our past experiences may affect our current circumstances. They let us vent our frustrations without being judgmental and guide us to change for the better. Counselors teach us to stop wishing for someone who doesn’t exist.
— Problem Gone
From California: My husband and I went to counseling every week for three years. The counselor was terrific, and I learned a lot about how to cope. However, at the end of three years, I asked my husband whether he was planning to make any changes, and he said, “No.” So I said, “Why are we wasting the money?”
Maryland: Back in the late 1980s, I was a newlywed college student working a late shift at a job I hated. I had developed the inconvenient tendency to burst into tears at random moments for no apparent reason. I found a certified social worker by blindly picking a name from my health plan’s list of providers. I can’t believe how lucky I was. After five sessions, he looked me in the eye and quietly told me, “I can’t take your money anymore. You’re tired. Get a job you like with regular hours.” I followed his advice, and things got better immediately.
Kentucky: For my girlfriend and me, counseling has been nothing but a waste of time and money. We’ve gone through several counselors, each with no results. We’ve been told things such as, “Just keep working at that, and it will get better,” “Go out and buy this book, it will help you,” and “If this isn’t working, you can’t be trying hard enough.
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Greensboro, N.C.: My wife left me for another man, and I became a single father raising a troublesome son. My sister suggested counseling, and one day, on impulse, I drove to a family counseling center and sat in the waiting room. A woman asked if I needed help, and I said, “I think so.” She didn’t say anything, but the waterfall came. I couldn’t stop talking, and so many things rolled out of my mouth and eyes that they surprised me. When I got outside of the building, I felt 30 pounds lighter. It was all I needed to focus on the things before me from then on.
Fairfield, Conn.: When I separated from my wife of 11 years, I was totally unprepared to live alone. I missed my kids and was not sleeping well. One Sunday when I was distraught, I went to a phone booth and called a number for help in the Yellow Pages. I spilled my guts about my life, and this person gave me the name and phone number of a counselor and arranged an appointment. This counselor was an angel from heaven. He pushed me to confront my mother’s death, which I had never gotten over. Now, 31 years later, I’ve been remarried for 28 years and am doing fine. Over the years, I have learned to realize that not all women are going to leave me. Seeking help was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.
Dear Annie: I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and doctors begged me to get therapy along with medication. I absolutely refused. But after five years, I gave it a chance. What a huge difference it made in my life. I found my counselor through social services because I had no insurance. Also, Catholic Charities is a great place, and they charge on a sliding scale if you don’t have insurance.
— Better in Pennsylvania