Mind, Body & Spirit: How Counseling Changes Lives

Dan is a teacher, runner, and new father. He teaches 8th grade social studies. Dan started counseling with JFS in the summer of 2022.

Why did you begin counseling?

“COVID happened. That through me for a loop. Being an athlete and really invested in my health, I had an increase in thoughts about worse case scenarios. My life got really difficult after we had a baby. I had a lot of paternal postpartum depression, and an aversion and resistance to change in my life.”

What were your paternal postpartum feelings like?

“A lot of insomnia; a lot of disinterest and inability to do things that I love. At its worst, some panic attacks; just feeling out of control and very anxious about the future. And even muscle stiffness and soreness. Just not being able to move on, feeling stuck in the moment. Yeah, just a really hard time with accepting change and my new identity (as a father).”

Have you seen improvements since starting counseling?

“Massively. February of last year was a really low point for me. I was seeing someone from JFS weekly and started seeing improvement in the later part of the spring. I was on paternity leave during a lot of that time, and I was going back to work in May and feeling a lot more functional. Throughout the summer I saw a lot of progress, and now I’m back to school and have been able to get back to some of the activities that I love to do and be more social and be invested in taking care of my son and my family.”

What have you learned from counseling?

“My counselor has done a really good job of talking about thought reframing, especially with my health-anxious intrusive thoughts. Challenging them and going through things logically. And on the depression side, it’s just been talking a lot about change and control. Understanding what my personality type is and how that interacts with the fact that our lives are constantly changing. And this is a big one that I’ve been subconsciously resisting and have felt trapped by. So, processing a lot of those thoughts with her and just being vulnerable and having someone who is not judgmental. Because it’s hard to say, “I don’t like being a dad.” People tend to not like you if you say that in public. So, it’s been really helpful to talk with my counselor about that.”

Did you have any reservations about starting counseling?  

“Being an educator, you gotta practice what you preach. We talk a lot about social and emotional awareness with students, and it’s something that I implement as a teacher in the way that I run my classroom. And it’s something that is important in my life too.” 

Any final thoughts?

With JFS in particular, the team aspect of it, with Sheila as my counselor, doing psychiatry with Danielle, and then when I was really experiencing a bit of crisis, I worked with Mike a few times, and everybody is very accessible. Even Amanda, who works in the office for psychiatry. Everybody is very responsive, and you feel treated with a lot of dignity as a person. You’re not put through the whole automated system to wait for someone like other healthcare providers. You always feel like you can get in touch with someone, and it’s very humanizing.” 

This interview was also published in the January 2024 issue of Jewish Living Delaware Magazine. Click here to read it.