THE COUNSELOR AND THE PSYCHIC 

A Fictitious Conversation?

Struggling in the face of increasing pressure to render quicker, cheaper, and more efficient care, it had been the worst year yet in private practice.  The Counselor looked over precious years of training, and once again questioned  its value.  The ‘year from hell’ was ushered in with a threat of a lawsuit followed by a probable cause inquiry along with a $20,000 bill for legal fees, which had taken a large chunk of precious retirement savings.  The Counselor had seen income decimated by managed care, earnings halved by capitation, and a caseload doubled in futile hopes of accommodating the difference. He wandered over to a local bookstore for respite from his anxiety.

Through the din of dark thoughts, the Counselor heard some people at the far end of the bookstore excitedly gathering around an innocuous table above which hung a simple sign reading “It’s In The Cards”.  These new age junkies politely elbowed each other for a moment of the  Psychic Consultant’s attention.

Curious, the Counselor slowly shuffled in the direction of this pathetic sideshow, pretending to glance at a magazine here, a book there, but otherwise intently focusing on the Psychic and the groupies.   The questions sounded so familiar…“Will it be a good year for my child?”  “Will I survive this depression?”  “Is she the right one for me?”  “Can I kick the habit?” The Counselor was indignant because there sat the Psychic, dispensing answers, some pseudo-professional Pez machine, so cock-sure.  While deeply indignant, the Counselor was nevertheless….curious and waiting until the crowd thinned out, slowly made way to the table and sat down. 

Counselor:  “I was watching you, and to be honest, was incredulous at how easily you dispensed advice on such important matters to people you don’t even know.”

Psychic:  “Strangers yes, but do we really ever know anyone?”

Counselor:  “They were asking you for advice about life changing issues, and you so cavalierly gave it.”

Psychic:  “I simply told them what they already know, but didn’t trust themselves to believe.  And why are you so fascinated and so threatened with what I do?”

Counselor:  (imperious)   “I’m a COUNSELOR, extensively trained in the science of healing.  I work with the severely depressed, drug addicted, and the hopeless.”

Psychic:  “I also work with such people and don’t need to hide behind the pretense of science.”

Counselor:  “You offer no systematic, tested techniques…you give advice and play on people’s vulnerabilities.”

Psychic:  “I consider myself to be deeply empathetic, intuitive, and trusting in  peoples’ ability to heal themselves with support.”  I draw upon thousands of years of history, culture and religion to help my clients.

Counselor:  “Support, validation, affirmation; it’s soft, lacking in depth…you tell people what they want to hear.”

Psychic:  “Don’t you?” 

Counselor:  (reflecting on past clients that terminated therapy when confronted and feeling at a loss)  “You make predictions.” 

Psychic:  “Don’t you, and can you really say that you know your clients any better than I know mine?”

Counselor: (feeling threatened and somewhat defenseless) “I am a highly trained professional, licensed in the state to practice, a strict adherent to a code of professional ethics, I’m constantly aware of and continually protect myself from threats of litigations by implementing informed consents, attending seminars on legal and ethical issues, and am highly selective of the patients I take into treatment.”

Psychic:  “You’re scared and hide from your clients and yourself behind legal contrivances and illusions of protection.”

Counselor:  “There was a time that I trusted my patients, but even more so myself, and believed my profession to be a noble calling.  I felt secure in its scientific foundation, valued collegiality, and looked forward to coming to work.” 

Psychic:  “How sad for you.”

Counselor:  (vulnerable) “I have standards of care!”

Psychic:  “Sounds more like standards of fear…I have standards for caring.”

Counselor:  “Maybe so, but I take full responsibility for my clients”.

Psychic:  “Perhaps that’s why you struggle so”. 

Counselor:  (with little else to fall back on and in desperation) “I command a handsome fee”.

Psychic:  “ So do I and I’m not encumbered by insurance companies, managed care, or outside forces presuming to tell me how to do my job”.

Counselor:  (beaten down) “I’m completely autonomous”.

Psychic:  “Are you?”

Counselor:  (realizing that the line that separated them was ever too fine) “What’s to become of me?”

Psychic:  “It’s all right here in the cards”.

About the Author

Lawrence Rubin

Lawrence Rubin, Ph.D., ABPP, is a co-author of Messages: Self Help Through Popular Culture, and a professor at St. Thomas University.

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