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Problems with counselor

Nov 6, 2000

Hi Michael, I was needing your professional opinion on something. I have been seeing a counselor for about 5-6 months to deal with depression and some emotional problems. Shortly after I started sessions with him, I confided in him that I was gay (which probably explained a lot of my depression and social problems). This was the first straight person I ever told, and he reacted well to it. However, recently, I have become scared that I may have contracted HIV. I finally told him about it, and the first words out of his mouth were "Well, I read that people were living longer with that disease". He has let me just talk about my fears, but I have asked for help with fear management, any sort of suggested techniques or ideas, and so far he hasn't really been that helpful. Is this normal in a counseling type of setting? All he seems to be doing the last couple of weeks is saying "I'm glad you felt comfortable enough to share this" and "to recap. . ." and goes through what I have just been discussing. Having no experience in a counseling setting, dealing with gay issues, or HIV issues, I'm unsure of whether this is supposed to be helpful or not. I'm very frustrated though, and there aren't a lot of mental health professionals available here, let alone ones that specialize in gay issues or HIV/AIDS counseling.

Response from Mr. Shernoff

You have to be honest with him and tell him that his responses have not been very helpful to you in your learning to manage your fears. I doubt if he will be very helpful since he does not sound like he knows very much about HIV or gay people. But you have to very nicely tell him how you are feeling and what you want specifically from counseling. If he responds kindly and in a way that leaves you feeling comfortable and that you can trust him more, then you should continue working with him. If he becomes defensive or in any way that is not comfortable for you, then you have to confront him on this and tell him that as a direct result of your disappointment in how he responded you are now going to begin to look for another therapist.

Best of luck.

Michael Shernoff

Coming to terms with HIV status

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