Over the past 35 years, I have treated thousands of men, women and children of all religions, ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, ages and stages in life. They have been people who were on social welfare, as well as the rich and famous that we all read about.
I can’t remember even a single case when someone called to ask me to help them improve their communication or problem-solving skills. Ninety-nine percent of the men and women who seek treatment from me typically call when they are in a state of acute crisis.
We can view a crisis as the end of the world, or we can choose to look at disruptive and stressful experiences as opportunities for growth.
I have often wished that there was a way that I could help people to fast-forward their opportunities, so that they could deal with their problems earlier rather than later, before their lives were literally falling apart.
This is one reason why it is so important that our schools make the time and find sufficient resources to help students deal with their mental health and relationship issues as early as possible.
East Hampton High School, where I am currently doing some consulting, is a model when it comes to their concerns and focus on mental health issues for young people. We desperately need more of these enlightened schools and programs across the country.
CASE STUDY: MEET JONATHAN
“Jonathan” is a 55-year-old bisexual man who is a partner in a major financial institution in New York City. His net worth exceeds over $100 million. He has been separated from his wife for several years and is the father of four grown children.
He was recently discharged from a psychiatric hospital after having had a psychotic break. He was referred to me by a current patient of mine, who is one of Jonathan’s drinking buddies.
Although he had originally scheduled an hour-long appointment, we ended up spending over three consecutive hours talking about his abusive family history, what it was like growing up poor, his father’s alcoholism, his mother’s suicide when he was only 10 years old, his own alcoholism and his feelings of guilt and shame in being bisexual.
These were all issues that Jonathan had never talked about or dealt with previously.
THE NIGHT THAT SAVED JONATHAN’S LIFE
Jonathan was driving home after a night of excessive drinking. He had recently purchased a new Porsche and was driving erratically. He was stopped by a police officer who gave him a breathalyzer test. He was then thrown against his car, handcuffed and taken to jail. He contacted his attorney, who posted bail and who took him to the nearest Emergency Department of a local New York City hospital.
Jonathan was admitted to a psychiatric ward, where he remained for several days. The doctors told him that he had experienced a psychotic episode. He was medicated and transferred to a private rehabilitation facility where he remained for 30 days.
Jonathan realizes that this crisis was a blessing in disguise. He could have easily killed himself or another driver had he not been stopped by the police.
Jonathan and I agreed that he and I had a lot of work to do and would meet at least twice a week for the near future. Our sessions are long and painful. For the first time in his life, he is willing to confront and emotionally begin to deal with his traumatic history, his alcoholism and his bisexuality.
He is learning that even though we can’t change our histories, that it is possible to successfully work through our demons and skeletons in the closet, without trying to rely on the trappings of money, success, alcohol or drugs, which only mask our issues for short periods of time.
Jonathon is fully engaged in our therapy. He attends two AA meetings every day and exercises regularly. We are both feeling very confident that he is finally on a constructive life path. Time will tell.
Beatty Cohan, MSW, LCSW, AASECT is a nationally recognized psychotherapist, sex therapist, author of For Better for Worse Forever: Discover the Path to Lasting Love, columnist, national speaker, national radio and television expert guest and host of the weekly “Ask Beatty Show” on the Progressive Radio Network. She has a private practice in NYC and East Hampton.