Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Q: What's easier to find, a good therapist or a good dentist?

A: A good dentist. It’s easier to read an X-ray than a mind.

Well it’s that time in my life again; I need to get some therapy, counseling, paid listening, what have you, in order to get some useful insights about my “self” so that I am not so plagued by the day to day bad feelings I experience. I think that these feelings have something to do with my divorce from a marriage of 27 years. (two years ago, if you’re counting.)

Each day I have this heavy feeling on my chest and discomfort in by stomach. Then the voices of self-torment start rearing their ugly little head and yell all over my psyche. The noise is so loud that it makes the uneasiness on my chest and in my stomach not feel so bad; sort of like putting a nail through your eyeball in order to alleviate the pain of an abscessed tooth.

I am relatively new to LA, having only been here for a little under two years. I know enough people that I can get a referral to a dentist. And I have the health insurance to cover it, 80% of most work done. But, a therapist? That’s another story.

I really am at a loss about how to find a good one, one that will not play out his deal on my life. (I don’t do woman therapists. I don’t think women therapists really understand the salmon-like nature of guys when it comes to sex: we have to swim upstream and spawn, regardless of the fact that we will turn ugly and die upon achieving our goal. And being a guy, sex permeates everything I do, even down to taking in my dry cleaning and getting the oil in my car engine changed.)

I figured that I would approach a coworker and say, “Uh, I have these ongoing emotions of shame, guilt and self-torment after leaving a marriage of 27 years and I really don’t like the way it feels any more. Say, do you happen to know of an affordable, competent therapist that can help me through this?”

What the hell, I figured. If you can't talk to those with whom you work, who can you talk to? I gave it a shot. The guy I asked told me that he didn’t trust therapists period, that they just get into the business to fix themselves by focusing on fixing other people. He has a point. Nobody that I know has ever accused a dentist of being in the trade in order to fix his or her own teeth. Besides most dentists that I know are upfront and honest as to why they do what they do: money. Of course, therapists like the green stuff and BMWs too, even more so maybe. I mean, a dentist has to pay for that big expensive, multi-position chair, x-ray machines, drills, new fangled bonding equipment, computers with accounting and scheduling software and cute dental hygenists. What does a therapist need, an appointment book, a chair, a sofa, and if he our she from the old school, a reclining couch? Talk about a trade with low overhead.

I continued in my search.

I called the Hollywood Mental Health Clinic, near where I work here at the LA Weekly. The receptionist, a male thank God, told me that I could have an intern on sliding scale or I could get a licensed one for real money. Of course I said that I’d pass on the intern and took some names of the money guys. But, now it occurs to me that the are more than a few people out there that will be be short on money, have no insurance and will want to see somebody, anybody or else. And that somebody will be an intern. The last time I checked, interns sit unsupervised in the room with the client (patient?), “trying to be helpful and therapeutic”. Tell me please, would you let a dental student do a root canal on you without having a experienced, licensed, hopefully competent dentist no more than ten feet away? I think not.

So, I hit the online yellow pages. I did get two fast responses from two letters sent. (Never let a sales opportunity pass I guess.) One was nice enough and provided some genuinely helpful information. The other offered to “sculpt the therapy to my needs” at $150 an hour. Hell I figured, at that sort of money I could pass on three visits, save the cash, take a trip to Paris and sculpt my way through an afternoon of coffee and croissants before going to the Louvre while leaving my feelings of shame, guilt and self-torment back in LA where they belong.

Or I could just throw in the towel, watch a whole lot of TV, get myself pumped up on pharmaceutical commercials, keep a careful list and then go see my friendly HMO sanctioned, $10 co-pay physician. I am sure that he would be happy to prescribe just about everything that the TV told me to take in order to feel healthier, happier and harder.

And this is with a health care system in which 40 million people aren’t even insured for the privilege of such misgivings and indecision. Such is the state of (mental) health care in America, I guess. Anyway, when it comes to playing the odds, I’ll go with the DDS any day of the week. In terms of incompetence, both will take my money and maybe overcharge me. A bad dentist will leave my mouth in shambles. A bad therapist will ….well, a mind is a terrible thing to waste.


Blogger Rob Miles said...

Not sure about therapy. Does one use it to find out more about oneself or cheer oneself up? In my case I'm not totally convinced that the former would lead directly to the latter, so that and the fact I could never afford it has kept me away from therapists (and anyway, we brits have stiff upper lips and stuff).

If I feel fed up I've discovered that whacking out a blog post is quite a good way to cheer myself up (although quite often the post has nothing to do with what is bothering me).

With a bit of luck you might find that blogging does the job of a therapist for you as well (at least at intern level).

4:58 AM  

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