Thursday, October 28, 2004

We - all of us - can use all the help we can get

What a beautiful morning. I biked over to St. Colomba’s Church this morning for my bi-weekly (mostly) counseling session.

When one can afford it, or if resources are available, I think counseling, with the right therapist, is an extraordinarily useful form of preventative – sometimes corrective – psychological maintenance. My therapist is a ‘family systems’ practitioner, which means, roughly, that she believes that psychological good health and happiness depend, in part, on understanding and being in a state of ‘completion’ with parents, partners, siblings, and even other extended family members. She begins her relationship with clients by taking – and diagramming – an extensive family history. Since she is church affiliated, her counseling also includes a spiritual dimension, which takes into account an important part of my life and world-view.

I first sought her help when my mother contracted a lingering, terminal illness. Like many mothers, she had been a towering, turbulent figure in my life. We had been mostly estranged for nearly 20 years (an “unsuitable” marriage was the proximate cause), but then reconciled in the last years of her life. What kind of disequilibria would her absence in my life create?, I wondered.

More recently we have been exploring my relationship with my father, now a physically vigorous, intellectually acute ninety three. During summer break week, as some Anderson neighbors know, my father and I spent a week driving to New England, viewing leaves, visiting friends and sharing undergraduate memories on the spectacular Dartmouth College, from which we both graduated. I think my therapist’s insights have been useful as I have sought to gain and contribute value-added to a very special relationship. She reminds me that statistically, very few men of my age (66) have had the opportunity to experience nearly a decade of an increasingly close friendship with their fathers. It is a “gift of grace,” she would say, to be treasured and given priority.

As I said, I believe counseling is always a valuable resource, even for those of us who consider themselves “well adjusted.” At a luncheon that Dean Broder and I hosted yesterday for young faculty, the topic was – partly – a presentation by the Director of AU’s counseling Center, Abigail Lipson (and also the Director of the Academic Support Center, Kathy Schwartz).

Both the Counseling Center and the Academic Support Center are located on the second floor of the Mary Gradon Center, and the availability of these great resources is included in the price of your tuition (if you are an AU student) You have paid for these services already. The centers staffed are with caring professionals whose sole responsibility is to help AU students negotiate their educational and personal lives. Probably most of you, like me, consider yourself well adjusted. Even so, you should check them out.

We – all of us – can use all the help we can get.

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