Therapists Talk 
Shrink Rap 


    Michael E. Holtby, LCSW, BCD

Personal Growth & Life Transitions

If your current transition involves the loss of a loved one click here: Losses

To legitimately use health insurance to see a therapist your condition must dictate a "medical necessity". Psychotherapy under these circumstances is often diagnosed as an "adjustment disorder". But this means you have been defined as having a mental illness. This is putting the complexity of life into too rigid a category. It is a very legitimate use of a therapist to serve as a coach, confidant, and mentor at times in your life when you feel stuck, without purpose, overwhelmed by losses, defeats, or radical changes. Doing life well takes courage, flexibility, self understanding and acceptance, confidence and the ability to take risks. Such skills are not automatic, and often require reducing our old emotional baggage to a carry on.

Last week I had an interesting dialogue with an activist for the disabled political group, Not Dead Yet. She sighted a study in which quadriplegics on a ventilator were asked to rate their life satisfaction. Ninety percent viewed their lives as "very satisfying". I find this quite fascinating given their physical limitations, and given Thoreau's view that most people live lives of "quiet desperation". When it comes to the general population, I believe Thoreau would be more accurate. Symptoms of this desperation are the fact that the average person watches twenty hours of television a week, or by the fact that one in ten are alcoholics, and that our society suffers from a plethora of other addictions: drugs, food, sex, shopping, and yes, the Internet. I believe these addictions serve as a distraction from an underlying sense of emptiness, alienation, and loneliness.

Seeing a therapist about such existential questions as, "How do I make my life have meaning?" is going beyond the psycho pathology view of therapy as a way to overcome a mental illness. Yet it can move you along your personal path at greater velocity than you could accomplish alone. Life is a fascinating mystery to be lived, not a problem to be solved. As Helen Keller said, "Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing at all."

For a great description of the experience of transition and change go to: Transitions

Also see The Courage To Live written for People With AIDS, but relevant to all of us.



Last messed with August 20, 2003

Copyright(c) 2001 Michael E. Holtby, LCSW. All rights reserved.