Then there were those individuals who profess to have severe anxiety, but maybe have a hidden agenda. I remember such a client who enjoyed writing as I do but also did not want to deal with the actual real world out there. Her goal, which i discovered as we got further into counseling, was to have me sign-off on disability diagnosis so she could in fact collect free money and not have to deal with getting-up early, driving to work, spending all day working for someone else and not getting paid enough anyway.
Remember what I said in Part One about family influences ? Well her mother was a perfectionist and worked long hours, and finally split with her husband who had no ambition and worked only part-time. Then there was her twenty-something son, who due to some disability which they were never clear about with me, did not work. So, bottom line, the mother was supporting the family who was not able or who preferred not to work.
The truth was exposed when I would map out a plan and steps for this client to take to overcome her anxiety and panic. I believe in Desensitization, frequent exposure in small increments to that which causes anxiety. So, small yet significant and realistic steps, with frequent repetition so the client gets feedback that they are OK. However, when someone consistently thwarts my efforts to assist them, I question their motivation.
Now, I know as much about panic attacks as any professional, and I also learned through the experience of having panic attacks in high school and college what needed to be done. I believed in One Step at a Time, and I have a great deal of patience and respect for clients, as I know what fear feels like. But when I saw the apparent difficulty she had taking steps with family members, I suggested that she and I “ go out in the field ” and actually practice taking steps to overcome her fears, she flatly refused.
Then, when her PCP called me and asked why the client wanted the doctor to sign her disability papers instead of me, the gig was up.
It is sad when people manipulate others to avoid responsibility, but this was not about panic attacks, it was her desire to not have to work. She felt ENTITLED !
Thankfully, this did not happen with very many clients. Most of them had no idea why they were experiencing these symptoms and were anxious to conquer them. When I suggested we work ”out in the field” so I could teach them how to take steps, how to control damaging negative, sabotaging self-talk, they were happy to do it.
Gene Benedetto, Psychologist/Emeritus/Coach
The Benhaven Group