Coping (or not) with the job search
August 30, 2010 6:19 PM   Subscribe

Where can I find a therapist / support group that specializes in job search coaching with experience in treating social anxiety and other irrational emotions?

I've asked job-related questions before on AskMe and come away feeling rather beat up: answers (however realistic) that "It's a Randian universe out there" have not helped my anxiety over the search at all. I feel that people discussing the subject inevitably "get their war on" and adopt the most tough, brutal personas.

Please do not make practical recommendations as to the circumstantial details below: they are the evidence for my out-of-control emotions, which I've signaled in caps (apology for caps).

I am looking for a therapist in the Washington, DC area who will not resort to drugs and who would focus both on coaching and on getting rid of dysfunctional thought patterns. Networking/support for people with disabilities would also be helpful.

Sample of dysfunctional thoughts.

I have a hearing disability. I am not deaf, unfortunately, which seems to exclude me from the U.S. government's noncompetitive hiring policy (I cannot get a straight answer from OPM on this). I also think that I have Asperger's Syndrome, though this social ineptitude blurs with my social anxiety (which may have developed secondarily). I do not have a professional diagnosis. EMOTION: I FALL BETWEEN THE CRACKS

I have a Ph.D. in history (2000) and tried the academic job search for a professorship for several years; nothing came of it. EMOTION: ANGER AT THE REJECTIONS.

retrained as a librarian (MLS., 2010). I would like to be a subject specialist in history, but after publishing two books I started the library school and school job below and have not had time to keep up with the subject. EMOTION: FEAR THAT I'VE AGED OUT OF MY SUBJECT.

I also find that academic subject specialist librarians more and more are asked to cover entire broad disciplines, such as all periods of history. As a person with possible AS, I tend to microfocus. EMOTION: FEAR THAT I'LL BE OVERWHELMED IF I HAVE TO BE A GENERALIST

I am currently working below my skill level as a school librarian and my job is insecure. The school would like to hire someone who is better at programming and at teaching special ed students. EMOTION: FEAR THAT I'LL LOSE A JOB THAT I DON"T EVEN LIKE

What is eating me up inside is the fear that I have already failed and that I will never find a job and will end up living under a bridge when my parents die. EMOTION: I AM DOOMED

As rents are very high where I live, I'm living with my parents right now, but we hope that this will be temporary. EMOTION: SHAME

I have saved about $35,000 and I am fantasizing about buying land somewhere and starting a subsistence farm, even though I don't like the country or gardening. But in this mood I feel that the hardships would be okay if they spared me from being judged. EMOTION: READY TO LIGHT OUT FOR THE FRONTIER

I am also stewing over something one of my professors said to me: that since I'm not married I ought to look harder for a job. In my darkest thoughts I have considered marrying a man in order to escape the living under a bridge. However, as a semi-autistic person, I am afraid that as Lisbeth Salander I'll end up with Advokat Nils Bjurman as a boyfriend or husband (the guardian who rapes and abuses her). EMOTION: FEAR OF MEN; SHAME

I am dealing with a ton of repressed anger and fear of abandonment. In this state of fear I am having trouble making decisions. I don't know if I really want to be an academic librarian, since I don't like moving around the country every few years. If I could get a foot in the door, I would rather work as a law or business librarian if I could live in the city. Meanwhile I have been making applications and the rejections have been coming in.
posted by bad grammar to Health & Fitness (4 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
It's really awesome that you're able to identify all your fears like that. There are a lot of approaches to this problem (finding specific help), though.

The first thing I'd do is identify 5 - 10 therapists or mental health offices in your area. Then call them one by one and just say your first line up there.

If you get several copies of any single answer, call that place next. If they don't sound right, tell them why they don't sound like a fit, and ask them if they agree.

Anyway, that should get you started.

If you print this question out and take it with you to your first appointment, that could help a lot, too.
posted by circular at 6:29 PM on August 30, 2010

I think the closest thing to what you described would be a cognitive behavioral therapist (CBT therapist). I don't know anyone in the D.C. area to recommend, but google should probably point you in the right direction. Shop around some though- finding a good therapist for yourself is a much more idiosyncratic thing than finding, say, a good dentist (although that can be surprisingly idiosyncratic as well).

I would also encourage you to do some reading about ACT therapy. I'm not an expert in ACT, but it really turns a lot of common assumptions about therapy on their heads, and it is generally a staunchly anti-medication approach to therapy. I recommend it because I've gotten the sense that ACT can be an especially good approach for super bright people.

More generally, bear in mind that the economy is still super shitty and, despite their multi-million dollar endowments, colleges and universities are feeling it too, putting a major damper on hiring. Don't give up, and try not to take the rejections too personally.

Take care.
posted by jimmysmits at 7:50 PM on August 30, 2010

I have no therapist rec, but do you know what, I missed this on first reading:

"I also think that I have Asperger's Syndrome..."

and read the rest thinking "I wonder if she is on the autism spectrum?" The reason I thought it is that AN HOUR AGO I put down the amazing Songs of the Gorilla Nation. You and author Dawn Prince-Hughes PhD are prose twins, and your experiences closely match hers as well. In particular, she addresses the issues of underemployment and insecurity as a consequence of being an autistic intellectual. Though it deals with some very difficult material, I found her book very heartening and inspiring; maybe you will too?

Very best wishes. With two books, two graduate degrees and a substantial nest egg accumulated, all of it in the face of serious obstacles, you are clearly an awesome person. I wish you happiness and peace.
posted by rdc at 10:38 PM on August 30, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you. I am sorry about the length of the post. I will look for a support group or therapist, but I also think a lot of my distress comes from feeling that many of the library jobs that are available right now are a poor fit. I am not anyone's first choice for in-person reference and user instruction.

I attended the library school that was closest and least expensive (still ALA-accredited, but second rank) and it tends to emphasize reference and instruction. I think I should focus on developing cataloging skills or digital resources, maybe even virtual reference and instruction.

All my life I've had people, mostly family members, telling me that I could improve and change myself if I really tried -- usually featuring skills such as self-control (I had terrible meltdowns as a kid) or sociality. I know these things are to some extent learnable, but I received these criticisms as "You're not good enough."
posted by bad grammar at 5:39 PM on August 31, 2010

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