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Surviving since 1985, what now?

Sep 24, 2003

I have been HIV POZ close to my entire adult life. I tested POZ in 1985 and since have had an incredible POZ life. Being POZ for so long, I can't remember myself NEG, I just know POZ. My general appearance has been excellent, maintained good looks, have had an emotionally mixed life.

Though my years being POZ have been good to me, I've had the fear of death, becoming ill, incapacitated, diseased, always lurking in my emotions. At times these feelings became really overwhelming and eventually I learned how to cope with them at times with a therapist who has moved his practice to FL.

I am approaching 40, my general appearance is excellent, body in great proportion, muscular, healthy, financially secure, and stable. I am aware of treatments and options, which enable me to take charge of my health and life, something I didn't have back when...

I have done well during my entire POZ years, however, I feel the need to have a third party to rely on during issues which may be associated with being such a long term survivor of HIV and still ticking strong. I still find that the bubble is going to burst one day and I must prepare for that day.

The need I have is to find a therapist who isn't advertised under 1-800-THE-RAPY and which I can research prior to meeting. My twenties and thirties were good years, though considering how long I have been POZ, I feel pretty fortunate. Now I am at a stage which I would like to explore the option of adding individual counseling and would like to be certain prior to meeting with them.

Response from Mr. Shernoff

You can never be certain about whether a therapist is the right one for you until you have had at least one and sometimes two or three in person consultations with him or her. In order to locate someone who has the potential to work well with you I suggest that you do any combination of the following.

Call the local AIDS service organization and ask them to give you the names of a few mental health professionals who have had many years experience in working with people living with HIV. Ask your primary care doctor to also suggest some people who you can consult with. If you have any friends who are also POZ and long term survivors ask them if they are seeing a therapist that they feel might be good for you to work with.

If one name is given to you by more than one of these sources then call him or her and make an appointment saying you are shopping for a therapist and will be interviewing several possible candidates. Any reputable therapist should be comfortable and supportive of your doing this. If no name comes up more than once than call several people and over the phone tell them the same thing and prepare a brief list of questions that you want to ask them over the phone in order to evaluate their responses to help you decide whether or not you want to make an initial consultation with them.

Shopping for a therapist is an important part of the process of beginning therapy. Remember that in order to do so you have to remember that you need to be an informed consumer of therapy services. When you meet with someone with whom you click, you will feel that you can trust him or her, that they are easy to talk with, that they really listen to and understand you and that you feel that they will be able to help you.

Best of luck.

Michael Shernoff, MSW

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