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Sushama Kirtikar


THE INITIAL STEPS: PART III

By SUSHAMA KIRTIKAR - sushamak@verizon.net

"I had spent much of my life doubting the effectiveness of counseling. Now, with my back against the wall, I see how hugely helpful it can be." Randy Pausch, professor at Carnegie Mellon University, was dying of pancreatic cancer. He left us a trail of astute nuggets of wisdom in "The Last Lecture" that will take the rest of us a lifetime to gather. Perhaps, we can learn from him.

If you hear a rattle that your car is making, do you investigate the problem and take it to the mechanic, or do you wait till it breaks down on the highway? If there is a leak in your roof, do you wait till it floods your living room, before getting it fixed? Would you rather do something about a high blood pressure report or wait to have a stroke? Similarly, paying attention to your emotional problems in a timely fashion is equally important.

Having decided to seek counseling, it is better to make the decision to make it work. Do not set yourself up for failure by carrying a chip on your shoulder that says, "How can this person help me? Impossible!" Going in with a positive attitude will garner faster, rosier results. You will be giving counseling a fair shake. First, do your homework. Whom do you need to see?

Start with the basic and general profession and then move to more complex specialties. You would first see an internal medicine doctor to identify a physical problem, would you not? S/he is your primary care physician and your initial point of reference. If required, your PCP would determine if you need to go to a diagnostic center for tests, scans or X-rays that would be interpreted by a specialist such as a radiologist. Upon receipt of the test results, it would be decided if you would be treated by the PCP or whether you need to be seen by a specialist such as a cardiologist, urologist, oncologist, etc. It is the whole team that acts as your collective caregiver.

Similarly, you would first see a master's level (MA/MSW) clinician: a mental health counselor (not to be confused with school guidance counselor), or a social worker, or a doctorate level (Ph.D.) clinician: a psychologist to identify the psychological problem. This professional is trained to conduct diagnostic interviews, provide counseling services addressing personal problems dealing with a range of general to specific stress. Once the problem is identified, it will be determined if treatment can be delivered by that clinician.

If further standardized tests are required, these can be performed by a psychologist only, who is trained to administer and interpret these tests to aid in fine tuning the diagnosis, and make further clinical recommendations. In the event the question is raised about whether you need psychotropic medication to deal with severe or longstanding symptoms of distress, then the professional will also refer you to a medical doctor (M.D.): a psychiatrist who is the only clinician in the area of mental and behavioral health sciences qualified to prescribe medication.

Remember, medication alone will not heal the problem. Since most psychiatrists rarely practice psychotherapy, maximum benefit is derived by combining talk therapy with medical treatment. It is the entire psychological team that acts as a well-oiled machine to offer you care. Having seen the specialists, and equipped with all the necessary additional information, you can return to counseling with the full commitment to be active participants while there is still a fighting chance to get better.

Without much ado, let us decide to not wait till "our backs are against the wall."

Sushama Kirtikar, a licensed mental health counselor in private practice, can be reached at (813) 264-7114 or e-mail at sushamak@verizon.net


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SPECIAL NEEDS


Dr. Ram P. Ramcharran
STAND IS AN ORGANIZATION EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW
By Dr. RAM P. RAMCHARRAN

There are many organizations in the Tampa Bay area that focus on helping special needs children but the one organization that everyone should know about it is STAND (Statewide Advocacy Network on Disabilities Inc.) This not-for-profit organization, which has been around since December 1996, was organized by a group of parents and attorneys to help educate people on their rights.

STAND's purpose it to inform the families of children with disabilities of their rights. It is dedicated to getting a child with a disability the right education that they are entitled to under the law. The three main laws that STAND is concerned with are: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation act of 1973. It focuses on three topics: advocacy, legal rights, and above all, education.

This year, STAND will be hosting SPARC 2007 – Stand Pinellas Accessing Resource Conference. The organization’s goal is to provide parents, teachers, therapist and other professionals with resources that help children with disabilities make achievements in their life. STAND focuses on children with Special Needs and they take this mission very seriously.

This year SPARC 2007 will be held at Morgan Fitzgerald Middle School in Pinellas Park, on Saturday, Sept. 29, from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Morgan Fitzgerald is at 6410 118 Ave. N., Largo, FL 33773. Cost for the conference is $25 for pre-registration. That will include one entry to the conference, a lunch ticket and a program.

(Dr. Ram Ramcharran will be a guest speaker at the STAND event. He will be discussing how to better understand and deal with children with special needs. If you have any questions regarding this event, contact Melissa Tremblay, SPARC chairperson at (727) 784-8493 or visit www.standadvocates.org.)

Dr. Ram P. Ramcharran can be reached at ramramcharran@hotmail.com




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