Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Accidental Therapist

(A recollection unearthed from my memory thanks to the writings of Mrs. Hall)

We often times end up in jobs that we never thought we would be doing. As children we dreamt of being an astronaut, or a nurse, or a railroad engineer. We seldom dreamt of being an insurance claims adjuster, or a mortician, or an executive assistant, but alas, there are many more of those job available than the ones we dreamed of as children.

The jobs that I eventually landed in found me having to deal with a lot of people on an interpersonal level. My first carrier was in insurance where I got to deal with people in crisis. No one ever wants to talk to a claims adjuster unless their house burned down or their car was stolen. After a ten year stint in the 'human life is only worth X amount of dollars' industry, I moved over to the child welfare division of state government. Again, no one ever calls you up here to say 'great job!'....or 'how is it going'.....they usually scream something like 'I want the state to give me back my mother#@%&*^ing kids!'

By the time I had gotten to the end of my insurance career, I was working as an investigator at the Arizona Department of Insurance. Our 'official' job there was to investigate insurance fraud and improper conduct by licensed agents. However, our 'real' job was to deal with irate consumers that disagreed with the decision made by insurance companies regarding claim payments. You see, in government, the first goal is for politicians to kiss the ass of the electorate. Since the Director of the Department was appointed by the governor, we kissed a lot of voter ass, even though we weren't empowered to do anything about their problems.

I am the kind of employee that always looks at my job critically and tries to find better ways to do it. I hate wasted effort and redundant job processes. Since I realized that I would be on the phone for 60% of my day, I went looking for what the State wouldn't give me....a telephone headset, so I wouldn't have to hold the god damned telephone receiver to my ear for 5 hours a day.

On one typical day, I had my headset on and was listening to a complainant (consumer) scream in my ear about how the other guys insurance wasn't paying to restore his rusted out piece of junk that had been rear-ended in an accident. I sat there with a placid look on my face, staring at the wall while he bellowed and whined about how he was being 'screwed'. My boss walked by my office, stopped and stared at me. I glanced at him, pointed to my ear and made a talking motion with my hand to let him know I was on the phone. He smirked and walked away.

Ten minutes later, my boss walked by again, and there I sat, on the same phone call (the average 'screaming' complainant phone call usually lasted 20 to 30 minutes). My boss stopped, looked at me again, pointed to his watch and then made a gesture with his hands to 'wrap it up'. I shook my head back, pointed back to my ear and mouthed the words (screamer) to my boss.

To which, my boss made the jester of hanging up the phone. I interrupted Mr. Complainant and informed him that I had another pressing engagement, that we could not do anything for him statutorily and that he would need to file suit against the 1st party for hitting his car. Then I hung up the phone.

My boss then told me to stop letting these consumers waste so much of our time and just cut them off.

I responded to him that we weren't investigators, we were therapists, and that he would be getting a call from the complainant that I had just hung up on in about 2 minutes. Sure enough, the receptionist phone rang a few minutes later with someone wanting to talk to my supervisor.

After the boss talked to Mr. Complainant for almost 20 additional minutes in his office....he reappeared at my door. "You were right Doctor, continue on with your therapy sessions. I am getting to old for this shit."

My boss never bothered me while I was on the phone again.

The boss realized what I had figured out years early. Most people in society are so upset because no one listens to them and they don't have proper coping skills to deal with their stress. The only coping skill they have is to scream at someone. That someone is usually the government.

My job as an insurance therapist was a necessary evil because insurance companies didn't care and because government was powerless to do anything. Listening to them was the only help we could give them, and most of them felt much better after getting everything off their chest to someone that would listen.

I never wanted to be a therapist................I still don't...........but someone has to do it.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome Bruce! you spoke the truth when you said:

    "Most people in society are so upset because no one listens to them and they don't have proper coping skills to deal with their stress. The only coping skill they have is to scream at someone."

    AND MAY I ADD THAT the only other coping skills include BOOZE, DRUGS OR BREAKING STUFF OR HITTING PEOPLE.

    We now have 'coping skills classes' to offer our patients. Which IS MANDATORY IF YOU SEE ME! Because the meds ONLY DO SO MUCH OF THE HEAVY LIFTING!

    Awesome stuff Bruce, awesome.

    BUT may I suggest putting the people on speaker phone next time? saves your ear drum!