Jewish World Review Oct. 26, 2001/ 9 Mar-Cheshvan, 5762

Marianne M. Jennings

Marianne M. Jennings
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Consumer Reports

An epidemic of counselitis -- IT was the usual Saturday morning drill of hunting down basketball jerseys that travel more than my young sons do on the court. Jerseys migrate in stealth until their Saturday game of hide and seek with their masters. I partook of MSNBC and anchor Greg Jarrett whilst the lads labored obligatorily in vain until I step in to end the hunt.

Greg asked a psychologist how to help his young children, and thereby non-anchor heritage children, through the woes and fears of anthrax. The psychologist advised parents to explain the laws of probability, to wit: they are more likely to die in an auto accident than via anthrax. I sensed a shirtless 6-year-old behind me, intrigued by shrinks on MSNBC (anything beats a jersey safari), who blurted out, "We're going to die in a car crash?"

Way to go, learned psychologist. The child couldn't even say anthrax without a lisp and was unaffected by world events, completely engrossed in skateboards and Brady Bunch reruns. Now he fears riding in the car.

The shrink's effect on my son is fairly representative of the efficacy I see in counseling. I find it difficult to keep a straight face around psychologists, counselors, shrinks, social workers and tarot cards readers (some of whom show more wisdom). Beulah the palm reader has great insight for a woman with hair the color of pickled beets.

Counseling works like this: you explain your problem, counselors talk with you as Shari Lewis spoke to Lamb Chop, and the big finale is, "Get over it. $75." The American Psychological Association (APA) advice for dealing with an unfair boss: confront and communicate. After your confrontation, followed thereafter by termination, APA members will counsel you through post-job termination traumatic stress disorder.

Psychology states the obvious. APA advice on success at work: work hard and be pleasant! APA advice indicates b that being a Democrat helps with many illnesses. APA advice for stressed working mothers: demand government programs. For a demanding boss: unionize!

Still, there is pandemic counselitis, induced by the profession itself, which has an inherent conflict of interest. If your income depends upon folks requiring counseling, the advice, "You don't need me" is unlikely. In 1800, mental illness, one type only, required physical manifestation for diagnosis. Now there are nearly 400 disorders, including Developmental Arithmetic Disorder and Lottery Stress Disorder.

Data from counselors show us to be a nation of nuts. According to the National Mental Health Association, 54 million of us have a mental disorder, although "mental disorder" is never defined. One in five children is mentally ill at least once each year (in our household the rate is once each day) and 5% of children have "extreme functional impairment." 35% of adults have dementia; and 2% are schizophrenic. There's Chronic Tax Anxiety, Noncompliance with Treatment Disorder and not enough space to list stats that, if true, mean the US has a population of one billion.

Counselors have created a presumptive need for counseling. At Columbine, the kids had to beat off the grief counselors. Psychologists flocked to Ground Zero. The APA Website has a cut-off of 2 weeks for depression following September 11. Any longer, it says, requires treatment. Forgive me, but those who were over it in 2 weeks are the ones in need of help.

Counseling requests are up 1,000% in the New York Area since September 11. Walt Disney added crisis counselors to its cruise ships after September 11. If you are on a cruise with Goofy and Pluto and are still down, there is little a shrink can do for you.

Employers now buy into the counselitis with employee assistance programs. You and the counselor work for the same company and you share your intimate feelings, weaknesses, and scary sides with Lamb Chop for hire? My supervisor has enough to handle just from my memos and comments - he's not ready for my inner child. But ESPN in the New York area gave all its employees numbers for counselors for group or individual sessions. There are depressed sportscasters?

Get a grip, America. Counselitis is ruling us. There is very little in life a good cliché can't fix. Time heals all wounds. Don't give in to the fear. Don't let evil triumph. There's always a reason. If a cliché doesn't work, you have assumed your problems are somehow greater than those of the millions who have come before and endured more with great strength, complete sanity and no counseling.

A Phoenix area counselor returned with a report on Ground Zero and explained healing began when those affected started thinking of others: parents, friends and even pets, "I was amazed at how much pain people can absorb and still function." Exactly -- not through counseling, but the antithesis of such self-absorption - focusing on others. A cheap prescription for a healthy psyche.

JWR contributor Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University. Send your comments by clicking here.


10/16/01: A touch of class
10/12/01: Of human nature and monsters
10/05/01: Sensitive man
10/01/01: Post-September 11 security
09/20/01: No tinhorn terrorists can frighten us
09/06/01: If there is no honor in youth sports, it is because of the adults
08/27/01: The draw of Condit
08/23/01: Lowering expectations and flying high
08/17/01: Thoreau, Walden and stems cells
08/13/01: Our masters: The animals
07/30/01: When principle hits too close to home
07/13/01: Rage born of sublimation
07/06/01: Patient's rights and the Valley of Death
06/29/01: There is no excuse
06/21/01: I want an eternal soulmate, but the marriage thing is another issue
06/14/01: Which way maverick McCain? An Arizonan's perspective
06/07/01: No stroke of genius
05/30/01: The lesson of the Mr. Green Jeans senator: 'Moderate' is a classy term for wishy-washy
05/25/01: Baseball has not been so good to me
05/18/01: Clothes make the woman
05/11/01: Selective precaution
05/04/01: Grades: Equality of students, by students, for the students
04/27/01: The Horowitz revelations as seen by a college professor
04/20/01: First, let's kill all the tests
04/13/01: The continuing mistake of underpricing electricity
04/06/01: That pill, Julia Roberts
03/29/01: If it weren't for the parents, we might accomplish something
03/23/01: The melt down of the academy
03/15/01: Columbine redux: Moral infants
03/09/01: The lessons of Tom and Nicole
03/01/01: Pardon the temporary outrage
02/23/01: In defense of homework
02/20/01: A Message for faith-based organizations: Don't take the money, just run
02/06/01: Enough already with the Clintoons
01/26/01: The challenge to be better than we have been
01/19/01: Where have you gone Frieda Pushnik?
12/29/00: The year that was
12/23/00: Litigation: It's the American way
12/15/00: In defense of rhetoric
12/06/00: The company we keep: Lawyers and elections
12/01/00: Liberals' art of trashing of women
11/20/00: Put me out of my misery
11/17/00: On being a statesman
11/13/00: When it's broke, fixing it wouldn't offend the Framers
11/08/00: ELECTION 2000: I SURRENDER
10/27/00: Al in the package? Memo to women: Choosing presidents and husbands
10/20/00: Ten things the gay community should understand
10/13/00: "You Have a Lump."
10/06/00: The government as the pharmacy: Don't
09/29/00: The capacity for truth
09/22/00: Charity with strings and an agenda
09/15/00: The taming of the shrew: Gloria Steinem takes a husband
09/09/00: Why rich folk don't bother me none
08/28/00: Survival of the not-so-fit but conniving
08/25/00: Conventions: A study in contrasts
08/18/00: Resenting the accusations of racial prejudice
08/04/00: Women: Their own worst enemy
07/21/00: Hillary: Our longshoreman First Lady
07/21/00: SUVs: The root of all evil
07/14/00: The basketball gene and white men not jumping so well
07/07/00: I wanna be around
06/23/00: The liberal conversion
06/14/00: Sex and the City: The shallow but vulgar female
06/08/00: No excuses schools
06/02/00: Oh, Canada: Our Nutty Neighbors to the North
05/23/00: The new mollycoddling coach
05/16/00: On adultery and leadership
05/12/00: Taking your lumps
05/02/00: Elian: There's never a liberal around when you need one
04/25/00: Life's circle and tenderness
04/18/00: Womyn who want it both ways
04/11/00: The monsters we're raising with the ergo proposition
04/05/00: Endowing the Hooters Chair for Literature Appreciation
03/28/00: Dr. Laura: The passive/aggressive kid's mom
03/21/00: Dough and campaigns
03/14/00: The volunteerism of conscription and pomp
03/07/00: Hope and pray that religion remains a force in politics
02/29/00: Ditzes in TV Land
02/22/00: Cranky nitpickers make writing a [sic] experience
02/15/00: Those chameleon 60s activists
02/08/00: McCandidate McCain: Flirting with principles
02/01/00: The demise of marriage
01/25/00: Stroke of the pen, law of the land: Clinton's Camelot
01/18/00: Off the Rocker Rorschach Test
01/11/00: Oprah's lemmings
01/04/00: Struggling mightily amidst the comfort
12/23/99: Confused fathers
12/14/99: Drop-kicking the homeless
12/07/99: Turtles and teamsters, side-by-side in Seattle
11/29/99: When conservatives behave badly
11/22/99: Compassionate conservative: Timing and targets
11/18/99: The elusive human spirit and accountability
11/11/99: Succumbing to the intellectual child within with the help of crackpots and screwballs
10/28/99: Live by litigation, die by litigation
10/22/99: Jesse, Warren, Cybill, Donald and Oprah
10/14/99: Inequality and injustice: It's the big one
10/05/99: Dan Quayle, morals and schoolyard bullies
09/30/99: The monsters of epidermal parenting
09/21/99: The Diversity Hoax
09/15/99: Waco Wackos
09/09/99: Selective censorship
09/01/99: The village, the children, judicial imperialism and abortion
08/24/99: Naughty Newt?
08/17/99: In defense of Boy Scouts and judgment
08/10/99: Ruining the finest health care system in the world
08/03/99: Nihilism and politics: ethics on the lam
07/26/99: Of women, soccer and removed jerseys
07/23/99: Not in despair, a mere mortal doing just fine
07/20/99: "Why me?" How about "Why us?"
07/13/99: Bunk, junk & juries
07/06/99: An Amish woman in a Victoria's Secret store
06/30/99: That intellectually embarrassing Second Amendment
06/24/99: Patricia Ireland eat your heart out --- but check out the recipe in 'women's mags' first
06/22/99: Dems and the Creator coup
06/17/99: True courage is more than just admitting troubles

© 2000, Marianne M. Jennings