I don’t know about you, but I’ve found it helpful at certain points in my life to get support from counselors or therapists. There have been three distinct times I can recall needing to get some guidance from someone other than a friend or family member. Two of these three times I ended up going to the same person. Darla.

As a college freshman I was facing the fact that I was away from home for the first time, didn’t know anyone, and early on that year learned that my father was an alcoholic. In October I’d gone home for a long weekend and my dad told me that he recently came to the conclusion that he drank too much, and the pitfalls associated with such behavior included the fact that children of alcoholics may likely grow up to be alcoholics.

Well, since I sure as heck was not going to be one of those statistics I sought some help from the college’s counseling office. I met Darla in nice little room in what was the Reed House. A small building on the edge of campus that had, in fact, been someone’s home at one time. I remember her office filled with little statues, purple throw pillows, full bookshelves, and batik wall hangings, as you might expect to find in such an office. The leaded glass windows to the outside were big and allowed for a beautiful view of color in the fall and stark white and gray in the winter. Her manner was warm, welcoming, and surprisingly humorous. I probably spent half a dozen sessions with her in the first semester and another several in the second. Darla always listened and gave me homework between sessions in an effort, I think, to help me deal with life on campus as well as when I would go home. It worked.

Five years after I’d graduated from college I went back to work there. Oddly enough, in a job as an alcohol and drug educator; a new kind of position on many campuses at a time when “binge drinking” was getting an enormous amount of press. During my second stint at the college I found myself, again, facing the challenges of “what is my life about?” and [still] coming to grips with how my relationship with my father had changed since learning he was an alcoholic. And on top of all that I would soon be hitting the milestone birthday of 30 years old. I was, what in today’s terms might be called, “a hot mess”. Again, Darla was there for me.

I’d asked around to find out if anyone knew if she was still in the area and seeing clients. She was! I recall her being pregnant at the time I was seeing her. After several months of visits she was set to go out on maternity leave so we needed to get to a point in our work where she could, if I was interested, turn me over to another counselor. What I remember most about this time working with her was her direct approach to cutting through the bull. Answers like “I don’t know” were not well tolerated by her…she pushed me to get beyond the crap that was keeping me stuck. It worked, again.

Recently, I’ve been seeing another therapist, maybe because the grandchildren left and I was dealing with grief and loss; or, maybe because I was facing another milestone birthday (5-0), or maybe a combination of the two. She’s terrific and has been inordinately helpful. The other day though I got to thinking about Darla, wondered if she was still helping people. So I Googled her and found out that she is. Whoever she’s working with–they’re lucky to have her. Thanks, Darla!

Darla pic

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