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Worried well and not sure about mental counseling
Apr 19, 2001

Hi Michael I was wondering if some type of counseling for the worried well frame of thought is effective? I had a risky exposure last August and got the flu several weeks later and freaked out. After torturing myself and convincing myself that I had HIV do to some other illnesses (bronchitis, which I had never had, and a white tongue), I tested negative in November and again in February. But I can't shake the feeling that I have it regardless of what the CDC says about the 6 month window. I have been in counseling before for dystemia(?sp, form of depression, in case I mispelled it), and now that I am virtually free of counseling, I hate to go back. And I have never gotten a good reaction from mental health professionals about being homosexual. Is counseling a good step for the worried well? Thanks for your time.

Response from Mr. Shernoff

The answer is that yes good professional counseling can be useful to help an indivdiual understand why he is so worried aobut having any kind of illness. But for a gay man you absolutely have to choose a therapist who is not homophobic.

To make sure that any therapist you are thinking of seeing is gay sensitive you need to ask him or her the following.

Do you have experience working with gay men? Do you believe that being gay is as normal as being heterosexual? Do you believe in love between men? Would you ever try to help a person change his sexual orientation?

First of all the therapist must be very comfoortable and relaxed with your asking these quesitons. If he or she is not, end the conversation with them and continue looking for another therapist.

Then depending on how you feel about the responses to the questions you will or will not want to set up an initial consultation.

If there is an AIDS service organization near to where you live, call them and ask for a referral to a good thrapist who they know is gay sensitive and skilled in helping people with your kinds of problems. It is essential that you be a sophisticated consumer of mental health servcies and not be passive about accepting therapy from anyone who you sense might find being homosexual a problem in itself. I hope that this is helpful.

Michael Shernoff, MSW



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