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Recently, being particularly depressed, I decided it might be worthwhile to visit a professional for some talk therapy. The talk cure has never worked for me before, but as I am and was desperate it seem sensible to look for help. I had also read that Cognitive Behavior Therapy was the most successful type of treatment. As I am covered under an Aetna plan, such sessions would cost me $30 each in co-payments.

I checked the Aetna website and discovered several therapists, mainly Master of Social Work degreed professionals, who listed Cognitive Behavior Therapy, but when I checked the National Association of Cognitive Behavior Therapists (NACBT) I found that none of them where accredited by this organization.

I decided to visit Katie H. (her name obscured here so I don’t get sued). She seemed nice enough on my first visit during which I told her of my anger, my depression and, at age fifty-five, my hopelessness. She listened and felt my pain. I paid her and she had me sign some forms so she could get her insurance payment.

On the second visit, I was invited into the office and immediately given a chipboard. The major concern was that I needed to sign last week’s insurance form in two places and I had only signed in one. I also needed to sign another form for this week’s session, in two places, please.

After complying with the red forms, yes like red tape they were printed in red ink, we got down to business.

A little history, I have occasioned several talk therapists, mostly before the advent of the serotonin reuptake inhibitor class of drugs. Being young I had my whole life before me and therefore it made sense that what I needed to do was buck-up, seize the day, do my best, not project future dread and everything would work out for the best.

Once I stayed in talk therapy for nearly five years. I was treated by a fairly intelligent man, a rabbi. I liked him. It started as marriage counseling. He believe my wife and I could save our marriage, we couldn’t. Then it progressed to dealing with my depression, turned out SSRIs would do the trick, not talk. He urged me to participate in the New York Magazine personal ads which resulted in my second marriage which was a horror show that ended with my second wife claiming I physically abused her. I didn’t. And then, when the drugs started to poop-out, since he was not a doctor and could not adjust my Rx he suggested that I stop at the hospital on the way home as I was in terrible pain and considering suicide. Stopping at the hospital emergency room did not get me any help with my Rx. What it got me was almost hospitalized on the nut ward, which would have resulted in my losing my job. It is a wonder, but even after uttering the word “suicide” I talked my way out of there that night.

I know little about Cognitive Behavior Therapy, but during the second session Katie tried to diminish, yeah placate my feelings with phrases like, “You’re not alone.” What I was trying to do was accept that fact that my prime years were gone, my ambitions were unrealized and now unobtainable, and my meager means of making a living distasteful. Could she help me do that, somehow? What’s the trick?

Then, she asked the one question I never wanted to hear again in my life, “If you had your druthers what would you do?” I rephrased the question in it’s popular New Age idiom, “If I handed you a magic wand…!?! Is that the question?! I hate that fucking question.”

Why do I hate that fucking question? Well, I first remember hearing that question when I was twenty-nine. That question seems to always come from people who have money, power or security, have married rich, etcetera, and always seems to be aimed at those of us who are struggling. It implies that a) our thinkin’ is stinkin’, b) if we let it the universe or Santa Clause will fulfill our most noble desires, and c) you are a loser.

The other reason I hate this fucking question: it’s so a minute ago. The curtain has been pulled to the side. The Wizard is a fraud. There are no magic wands. Harry Potter wants sex. Those that asked this question of so many of us are either in jail or afraid of going to jail because their magic wands were scams.

I told Katie, “This has been fun,” gave her two twenty dollar bills and left in a huff.

Katie sent me a check for $10 change. She kept the $30 copayment for the session even though I had been there for little more than ten minutes, two of which I was signing forms. I’m certain she submitted those forms for the insurance payments because, to her credit, Katie is smart enough to know there is no such thing as a magic wand and the payments on her Lexus must be made somehow.

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