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By Sushama Kirtikar -

Being in denial is a bigger malady than the actual problem that plagues you. It is like the proverbial alcoholic who staggers and slurs, “What? I am not d..r..u..n..k …” Similarly, people who are miserable in their personal or professional lives shake their heads, “What? Me go to a shrink? Counseling is not for me. Besides, who said I have any problems?”

Sushama Kirtikar
In my 18 years of practice, I have noted a demographic trend in our community of those who tend to avoid counseling services. Males in their 40s and 50s with steady careers are most resistant to such a notion. They are usually first-generation immigrants who are naturally frozen in their memory of the Utopian society they left behind. They never saw their parents go for psychological help; therefore, the whole idea is ludicrous and unthinkable to them. It is belittling to admit they have a problem. They see themselves as super achievers at work, able to manage big companies, adept at employer-employee relations and problem solving skills. They cannot even begin to envision that a personal quandary brings with it emotional entwinement which is not part of their work culture. It renders them ineffectual at solving personal problems. If it is a relationship issue, they prefer to place the cross on the spouse and expect her to seek help and ‘fix’ herself.

The other group that falls through the cracks is that of the young female homemaker. She is lonely, somewhat corralled off from the work force and social interactions. She believes that as the stalwart queen who manages the house, she ‘should’ be able to handle a bout or two of depression. An occasional anxiety attack is to be dismissed as a ‘flight of fancy.’ Besides, her identity is tied up in the smooth running of the household and she does not think she has the right to disturb its flawless operation by diverting the attention of her husband or children. God forbid, she diverts it to herself! It would be selfish and misconstrued as attention-seeking behavior. Unwittingly, she continues to sink into her affliction.

With parents who are thus skeptical of the counseling process, the next group that gets affected is the second-generation Indian American. I recall the rug marks left behind by youngsters who have literally dragged their feet coming into my office, saying, “I don’t need to be here. So, there is no point trying to get me to talk. My dad (mom) thinks this is just a crock and a waste of time.” Their initial foray into counseling is awkward and tentative. I have spent many an hour with a teen staring at the wall and his/her back to me, making no bones about wanting out.

In contrast to the middle-aged men, I have found young men in their 20s and 30s and those above 60 to be more receptive to the idea of seeking help from a professional. Inverse to the homemaker, her counterpart the career woman tends to be less bashful about seeking help readily. She knows when the cogs of the wheel are out of alignment and need immediate attention. This is just an observed trend.

By and large, children and adolescents thaw in time and are more open to the idea of confiding in a stranger once their diffidence is conquered and rapport has been established. They are a delightful group to work. Then, there is no plugging the gush of emotions that spews forth; they are so open and forthcoming. They are not embarrassed to reveal their inner most thoughts and are eager to learn new ways of coping. Their patterns have not yet become cemented into intractable habit. They are more pliant and willing to be directed in healthier directions. Perhaps, we can all benefit by taking a leaf from our own child’s book.

Sushama Kirtikar, a licensed mental health counselor, can be reached at (813) 264-7114 or (727) 586-0626, or e-mail at

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