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July 29, 2005

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Volume 33
Issue 30

 
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Dear Glenn
Dear Glenn by Glen Pressel
Dear Glenn,

I was in counseling when I was in my early 20s. I was depressed about my sexuality and my future looked dim. I saw this guy for about 10 sessions but I don't think it helped much. I'm in my late 30s now and I've grown a lot through the years but there are some issues I have to take care of. I still get depressed for weeks at a time so I want to try counseling again. Since you're a therapist I thought I would ask you what I could do to prepare for counseling or what I need to do in counseling to get more out of it. Any suggestions?

Mike

Dear Mike,

I'm sorry to hear you're having a hard time. It is a wise move to get some help with this so you don't have to remain depressed. You are every therapist's dream client in that you want to know what you can do to make the sessions meaningful and helpful. There are several things you can do to make this a better experience. First off, realize that you are the boss and the therapist is working for you. That means you get to set the agenda. That doesn't mean you should not be open to what the therapist suggests - it means that you know better than anyone if what is being talked about is relevant to why you are there.

Spend the first few sessions giving the therapist information about you and getting clear on what the goals are. How will you know if therapy is successful? How will you be thinking and feeling if your major issues are resolved? This is how you and your therapist can get clear on what the issues are and what the common agreed upon goals are. Write the goals down for yourself. Before each appointment look at them and decide which of the goals you want to work on. That helps to keep you both on task. It's too easy to just come in and shoot the breeze or go over your week like a check-in.

Don't assume that your therapist knows all the answers or what is relevant to talk about. We need to get away from the medical model where you come in and the doctor knows best. In the best counseling situations, it's a collaborative effort. As a therapist I can't presume to know what we need to be talking about. I usually start most sessions with something like: "So what do we need to be taking about today?" You know why you're there. Keep on track and let your therapist help guide how the issues get discussed or resolved. That's their job. Even the best therapist can't know what you need to talk about.

The best mind frame you can be in is one of curiosity. Be curious as to why you feel the way you do or are struggling with whatever's coming up. This leads to exploration with your therapist. Therapists are not here to judge and lecture. You probably had enough of that from your parents. Therapists are here to help you make sense of what you feel and what's going on in your life.

Try these suggestions and see if this next counseling experience isn't more rewarding.

Glenn

Dear Glenn,

I love reading your column but this is the first time I've written. I'm a 30-year-old Gay parent with two kids. My former life partner really wanted to raise a family and I didn't. We talked it over for over a year and finally agreed to adopt. We were just going to adopt one kid but an opportunity came up to adopt siblings ages 2 and 4. We couldn't bear the idea of breaking them up and so we adopted them both. This was a transformational experience for me. I found I have a great amount of love to give and children seem to be a great way to channel it.

Problems arose within six months after adopting between myself and my life partner. He came to realize that children were a romantic notion to him but in reality they drove him crazy. We fought over this for several months. He wanted to put them back up for adoption. I couldn't. So to make a long story short, I am their sole legal guardian and the ex-partner is history; somewhere in New Jersey I think.

The reason I'm writing is I want to find a way to deal with dating given that I have children, too. They are now 4 and 6. I started seeing other guys about a year ago and I've discovered nothing scares off Gay men as much as children. If I have a date and don't mention children things go great. As soon as I mention my children, every date I've had scurries away like a cockroach when the light is tuned on. What's this about? Are Gay men so shallow that they can't make room for children? Is this a curse I will have to live with until they are grown and on their own? I know this sounds odd but it is really bothering me.

TJ

Dear TJ,

I understand your dilemma. Many Gay men are not looking to have an instant family and they bolt. Straight women have complained about this for years so I don't think it's a Gay man's issue. It's more of a male issue. It seems harder for some men to bond to other people's children. It's also true that many men just aren't interested in the responsibility and the commitment to raising a family.

Luckily you are not alone in your desire to share your love and guidance with kids. There are literally thousands of Gay parents who have found lots of meaning in raising children. One thing you might want to consider is joining a group such as the Gay Father's Association of Seattle: (206) 324-4359 or www.gfas.org. This is a place where you will find like-minded souls who are dealing with similar issues. You will meet some wonderful men who find value and happiness with raising children and you will find them a valuable resource in ideas of dating with children. They all have had to face it and can understand what works and what doesn't. Check them out.

A friend of mine who is in a similar boat told me that he dates only men he's gotten to know in some other setting. He will not go to the clubs and try to meet someone because he has run into the same experience you described. Instead he's used Internet dating services where information like kids is upfront. He also dates men he's come to know under other social situations but he never goes out with them until they know he's got a child and they are not freaked out about it. It saves a lot of heart ache. He has actually found that in some cases his kid was a great ice breaker and two of his lesbian friends are setting him up with Gay men they know and have already kid screened for him. It works for him. He dated some wonderful men and it looks like he getting pretty serious with one guy in particular.

Don't give up, sharing your love with children can be very meaningful and finding someone to share it with only adds to the delight.

Glenn



Glenn Pressel, LMFT, LMHC is a therapist in private practice in Seattle, his number is (206) 324-9378. Send questions to gapressel@msn.com or 3136 E. Madison, Ste. #100, Seattle, WA 98112. Please screen letters for identifying information.
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