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October 15, 2000

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Question from San Francisco, California, USA:

I am interested in going back to school to get a Masters in Counseling. The area I would like to specialize in is children with diabetes. My brother was diagnosed a few years ago, and I felt like it would have been nice to have someone at the hospital to talk to -- for the whole family. Do you think there is a need for diabetes counselors? Do you know of anyone who currently does this?

Answer:

I have worked for over a decade as a counselor specializing in diabetes in families. There is a huge need for such services, as your own experience validates. However, with the advent of managed care, counselors became viewed as a “luxury” in diabetes treatment. In short, nobody was willing to pay for the clinical expertise of a therapist. Dietitians and nurses do the lion’s share of “counseling” now. I was so very fortunate to have a genuine team of gifted professionals with whom to work. Our team consisted of an RN, RD, exercise physiologist, myself, and a foot care program. The doctors supported it wholeheartedly because it absolutely worked!

I still get calls from families of children I knew at their diagnosis, adults whose lives have new dimensions, and professionals who need my help. I wouldn’t trade anything for the experience of counseling in diabetes. Unfortunately, the landscape of medicine has changed so much that families of loved ones with diabetes often get minimal attention.

So I say go for it — as long as you know the lay of the land. You will be needed more than you realize. You just might not get paid. I did what I did for the love of it. I am doing this now for the same reason.

CMB