Photo Credit: Courtesy

Do I Need A Therapist?



Are you having major problems dealing with your loved one who has a form of Dementia? Is your parent over-reacting to your other parent’s forgetfulness? Is it your intention to get them to realize that they need therapy? Are family members telling you that your spouse is “just fine,” and that you are “over-reacting?” Has someone suggested that psycho-therapy will make your situation better?

When Hubby became very hard to handle, I considered going for therapy. When his anger spun out of control in recent years, and he made absurd accusations, the stress was enormous. I thought a therapist might be able to help me to cope. I decided that I was wrong. I have explained before that I have these conversations with myself (there are of course three of us: me, myself, and I). “We” volley the ideas back and forth, eventually coming to needed conclusions. The benefit is that it forces me to look at two sides of a situation before rushing to action. The deficit is of course, that there will be no one else to blame for errors in judgment.

To begin with, after multiple inquiries, it was irritating to be told that I would have to pay an excessive amount of money to sit with any number of suggested professionals, in order to spill out my angst. I did go to a therapist once many years ago when so many bad things were happening to me, that I thought I might burst. The therapy helped. The therapist did not. How can I say something so bizarre? It is simply because the suppressed emotions and thoughts going around and around in my brain, demanded a release. I needed to hear my own voice saying what I had only allowed myself to think. The therapist did no harm. But he also did nothing much to help me. It was having one personal hour a week to vent, in a safe place, that helped me. One hour to think only about me: to cry…to complain…to look for solutions. That was exactly what I needed. Indeed, the pressure cooker that was my brain needed to open a valve to let the steam escape. There is more than one locale where that can be accomplished.

The fact that we pay large amounts of money to therapists does make one feel that we need to resolve our problems rather quickly, unless we are happy with the monthly billing statements which will arrive ad infinitum. Unfortunately, for a person caring for another with a long-term ailment such as dementia, there are no quick fixes. It is a long difficult road that requires nurturing support from those who have been through similar challenges.

Therapy for those caring for a loved one with dementia, is best offered through joining a support group of others with similar day to day experiences. If we step back, so to speak, and think about professional therapy, I think we can agree that its purpose is generally to help us to become comfortable with the serious issues that plague us. After all, one cannot change one’s history, only one’s present. The entire concept of “mindfulness” is an acceptance of our individual responsibility and ability, to change our own lives by living in the moment. For those of us caring for spouses with Dementia, the present can be quite painful. How exactly would a psychotherapist who probably has never seen their own loved one disappear gradually before their own eyes, be able to grasp the degree of daily loss that so many must endure? This is not the same as other grief. This grief is ongoing and may be around for years to come, becoming deeper and deeper as the days roll by.

Do friends who feel sorry for you suggest that you go to a therapist? Many of mine have. They do so because they care about us and are at a loss as to how to assist us through this period in our lives. Their good intentions do not mean however, that they are correct. Those of us who are treading the waters of sanity as caregivers, do not have the luxury of classic therapy which takes extensive time. Time for one’s own needs, is a commodity which is at best scarce for caregivers. For some it is non-existent.

Recently a very good friend made this very suggestion to me. I balked and tried to explain to her why it was not for me. I explained that the ear of a good friend, who actually cares about me and my spouse, would be preferable to a doctor with a notepad at the ready, and a leather couch upon which I could rest my weary bones.

There is of course, always the exception to the rule. While mentoring others, I have come across some individuals who have serious anger issues with parents or spouses who now have Dementia. They feel that it is unfair that a person who treated them poorly in the past or someone who made bad life decisions (such as drug addiction or alcoholism), might have the right expect, nay to demand, that the abused family member should now abandon their own lives and responsibilities, to take care of this particular individual. These are complicated issues, which perhaps would benefit from one-on-one therapy. In these situations, there is not only anger, but intense guilt connected to a history of poor relationships. To be healthy, we all need to come to terms with our demons and a good therapist could help someone to sort out a complicated reaction to difficult past experiences.

If the truth be told, even our best and dearest friends only have so much energy to give us. This is only fair and reasonable. They have their own lives with their own problems.

It is my continuing conclusion that much of the help which care-givers need, can be best found in an organized support group of others dealing with the same crises. The beauty of such a group, is that it will, by its very nature, have members at different stages of the caregiving process. Those with more experience, become mentors to those who are just beginning to face the difficulties of caring for a spouse with memory loss and chemical changes to both the body in general, and the brain in specific. There is tremendous comfort in knowing that others have been where you are now. They have survived the stresses and have discovered many helpful aids which can ease your particular problem at any moment. This source of instantaneous friendship is a little-known secret from the general public. Because caring for the dementia-patient is so complex, and its variations so vast, suggestions from others who have been in your shoes are invaluable.

One of the most often voiced excuses for not joining a support group is the admitted fear of knowing what lays ahead. I, for one, avoided joining groups for a long time, for exactly that reason. We live with the deep-seated hope that our loved one will not end up as others have that we will be the exception. Why face what we might not need to experience? Our reality is difficult enough. One can only overcome this fear when the need for support is recognized as more critical, than the fear of the unknown.

Those of us who have learned so much in this specific life-experience, find that sharing it forward is very rewarding. It helps to make sense of what we have personally experienced. If we can help others as a result, it is one positive moment which we can appreciate amongst the others which continue to assault our senses.

There is really no way for a classically trained psychotherapist to have any idea what gut wrenching experiences care-givers have, unless they themselves have had their own personal experiences caring for a loved one. It is unreasonable for us to expect that anyone is all-knowing.

In the quest to find a support group which works for you, visits to Geriatricians who understand both the aging process, and memory loss, will be valuable. Seeing them weekly or even monthly may be out of the question when their patient load is full. The two streams of support work well, hand-in-hand. Doctors who are aware of the very real medical causes of the different forms of dementia are essential. Others with whom one can speak frankly and received guidance from their own day-to-day experiences, is a level of personal support which can be attained no other way.

There are cities so small or so remote, where one cannot find a support group to join. For those care-givers, they still do not need to be alone. A quick search on Facebook or elsewhere on the internet, for groups dealing with Dementia issues, will provide so many links that make it possible to connect with other individuals experiencing similar challenges in care-giving. This could become a tremendous asset and a very enriching experience.

When the idea of attending a support group was suggested to me, it certainly was not appealing. Why would I want to bare my soul to complete strangers? Within a very short period of time, these new people who have entered your life, are strangers no more. The comfort of communicating with other who are totally on your wave-length, is beyond description. Their suggestions will often be right on target and help a stressed care-giver to face the new dawn. There is no outrageous bill at the end of the session and everyone is welcome. It doesn’t get better than that!

Share this article on WhatsApp:

Previous articleWSJ: 80% of Hamas Tunnels Still Intact Because the IDF Can’t Decide between Killing Sinwar and Saving the Hostages
Next articleNYT: New International Deal Conditioned on Israel Committing Suicide
Barbara Diamond is a journalist living in Jerusalem, Israel. She has been a political activist on behalf of Israel and the Jewish people for over fifty years, having participated in political and humanitarian missions to Ethiopia, the former Soviet Union, China, and Europe to meet with world leaders on matters of concern. She has written over 100 articles for the Jerusalem Post and on her blog at The Times of Israel, hosted an English radio talk show in Jerusalem and continues mentoring others to pass on the torch of responsibility. You can reach her at [email protected] and visit her site at