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Recently diagnosed questiongs about counseling
Mar 23, 1998

I am a single mother with two kids. I was diagnosed with AIDS in 12/97. I extremely shocked. I had been trying to find out was wrong with me (fatigue & weight loss) for about

two years but my doctor kept running different test and saying he could not find anything wrong. It just so happens I went to my Gynecologist and was talking to her about my symptons & she suggested the HIV test. When it came back positive I went into shock. It took me until February to find enough strength to see a counselor. But since I have been going to her I don't feel any better. I thought I would be getting help to deal with by emotions. But, she has been talking to be about getting wills drawn up, applying for social security, stopping work, and having a lot of medical bills. She said I need to get the practical things out the way first and then we can deal with my feelings. I leave her office more depressed than when I went in. Is this what counseling is supposed to be like or should I look for someone else.

Response from Mr. Shernoff

Tell your counselor that you are not happy with her approach. While you agree with her that the practical things must be dealt with, you are not currently dying form AIDS, but trying to learn how to live with it, and she is not helping that process. Perhaps she is not very experienced in working with people with HIV. Ask her how many people with HIV and AIDS she has worked with. If it is not many, find a new counselor who has more experience. If raising these concerns with her, does not result in her changing her approach, or if she gets defensive or angry at you, then definitely tell her that you are going to shop around for a new counselor. Obviously you had not been getting good medical care until your gynecologist was perceptive enough to suggest the HIV test. Ask her if she knows of a good mental health professional who has experience in working with people with HIV. In addition, call the local AIDS service organization or hospital and inquire if there is a support group for women with HIV and AIDS. Joining this group can be invaluable. Just like all of us who are living with HIV must be very sophisticated consumers of each facet of our own medical care, like wise we must be as astute consumers of the ancillary services like therapy and counseling. Not every counselor is the right fit for every client. Even if your current counselor is experienced in this area, she may just not be the right person for you. First share all your disappointments with her regarding the approach she is taking with you. Ask her for the names of colleagues who are very experienced in this area and be honest with her that you are going to seek consultation elsewhere in order to compare how you feel once you try other people. Maybe she will shape up and meet your needs. But if she doesn't leave her for a better therapist. Best of luck.

Michael Shernoff, MSW



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