Figuring in faith for new client


Let’s meet Cliff. He contacted me by way of his priest. Yes … his priest! The Father had a history with Cliff.

Cliff, a devout Catholic, had gone to confession on several occasions. Additionally, at Cliff’s insistence, they met in a counseling environment. The religious faith-driven orientation was heard and recognized, acknowledged and followed. Yet, Cliff wasn’t able to eliminate his problem. Months of discovery, confession and faith-based counseling proved inadequate. Finally, in an act of desperation, the Father urged Cliff to seek more formal faith-based counseling.

His next step brought him to a licensed and certified counselor with years of experience. He and I had crossed paths. Years ago, Dominick and I met at a workshop. We ate lunch with people who had been encouraged to continue small group contact. The subject matter introduced at the conference was faith-based counseling versus secular counseling. Dom and I were members of one of several groups. We were training by discussing the merits of both religious and secular approaches to treatment.

All group members were encouraged to speak candidly about the varied positions. Faith-based seasoned therapists mixed with secular therapists to learn and to appreciate advantages to both sides of the same coin. Value was placed upon whichever perspective worked for the client.

Training got heated with the passion celebrated by all in attendance. Faith-based therapists were comprised of Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, and Muslim faiths. Appreciation for other religious faiths not in attendance was recognized. In the best interest of our clients became the mantra or theme song of the conference. Lunch time observed a continuation of our learning process.

Dominick was chowing down on a righteously juicy burger for lunch. I, on the other hand, joyously savored my soy burger. While feverishly debating meat versus plant based foods, Dominick and I looked up from our ravenous clewing, stopped, stared at each other and lost it.

Neither Dominick nor I ate with any class. We ate, chewed, and talked simultaneously.

We roared in laughter at the lack of class, and a childlike moment brought us to tears. Tears of laughter were accompanied by a belly roll. Our table mates were thoroughly disgusted and soon joined in the gaiety. Nice introduction, I say.

Realizing some immediate commonality, Dominick and I retreated to the washroom to gather our respective quality of class and dignity. Following the conference, Dominick and I exchanged contact numbers. Not too long after, I received a referral.

This gentleman completed one session with me. Rather than continue, he sheepishly asked if I might help him find a faith-based therapist. Dominick quickly jumped into my consciousness and in a moment, my client had Dominick’s name and contact number. Weeks later, Dominick called me.

He thanked me for the referral. The client was making progress. That’s when Dominick talked about a client, who though religious, couldn’t connect well enough. He wondered aloud if I might be a suitable match for his resistant client. Days later, I took Cliff’s call.

“Mr. Greenstein, my therapist Dominick suggested you as more appropriate for me.” We set up an appointment for two days.

Cliff was a semi-retired business consultant. He arrived to our first session sporting a handsome suit, tie, and spit-shined shoes. His hair was neatly combed and he sported a two-day-old beard neatly trimmed. Wearing my more casual wear demonstrated a contrasting style. I recall a discussion with Dominick who dressed smartly with a jacket and tie for work. I maintained the casual attire.

So, Cliff, welcome. I want to ask you about your work with Dominick. What did you two discuss relative to transferring to me? By the way, your answer can help me learn about you.

“Dominick is a professional colleague and friend. This is not a discussion on gossip. Well, Dominick as you know is a faith-based counselor. I’m a very religious man. I pray daily. I attend church. I even go to confession. Dominick offered a faith-based approach, which was clear and concise. Somehow, it didn’t square up with me. I’ve been carrying a heavy weight for some years. It causes disruptions in my life. I’ve gone to confession, even met in a counseling setting with my priest. Nice man. Yet, I am haunted on a daily basis. He turned me towards Dominick who, also, set a faith-based approach in action. It didn’t do the trick. So now, I have you. Think you can help me?”

The balance of the session allowed for some family history including family-of-origin and current state to include a 40-year marriage, children and grandchildren. Cliff continues his self-employed consultation work. We addressed some questions of functionality such as sleep, appetite, mood, energy level, and medical history. We agreed to meet in several days. Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.

Marshall Greenstein, a Cassadaga resident, holds a masters degree in marriage and family counseling and is a licensed marriage and family counselor and a licensed mental health counselor in New York state. He has regular office hours at Hutton and Greenstein Counseling Services, 501 E. Third St., Suite 2B, Jamestown, 484-7756. For more information or to suggest topics, email editorial@observertoday.com.


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