Unpublished Letter to the Editor: Professional counseling is not always the best counseling

As a family doctor in practice for 50 years, I am writing to comment on claims being made in recent stories about the Boston School Advisory Committee (BSAC). I have found in my practice that every one of my patients benefits from being listened to, with respect and caring. We all carry emotional burdens which can accumulate. The load of these burdens lightens when we are able to hear “a word from the outside.” A close friend can provide that ear, often better than a distant professional.

Some of the student members of BSAC as well as the Superintendent of Schools called for the elimination of any counseling program not led by a licensed mental health provider. As a family doctor, I question this decision. Very few psychiatrists seem to spend much time doing talking and listening therapy anymore. Managed care organizations increasingly want doctors to speed up and get through meetings with more patients. I know from my own experience that doctors of all kinds are under enormous pressure to prescribe a pill for every ill. A patient’s distress can sometimes be relieved temporarily by taking a drug, but the underlying distress remains. In contrast, as Benjamin Franklin put it many years ago, “A pair of good ears will drain dry a hundred tongues.”

Eric Lessinger, MD, Gloucester, MA

— Submitted June 2 to Boston Globe, not printed —