ACA Blog

Robbin Miller
Nov 02, 2010

The Now What Question?

I wrote a previous blogpost on counselors being mindful before signing the papers for their clients to apply for social security benefits for either themselves or their child’s mental health diagnosis. While many will be denied for the first and second attempts, most of the appeals end up going to court.  If a client wins, their lawyer gets 30% of the SSI retroactive payments.  Unfortunately, the SSI game is a money racket for lawyers to get rich for the majority of the cases they win. Please note I am not saying that all people should be denied SSI for either their physical or psychological conditions. I am talking about individuals who are seen on the outpatient level and not from institutional settings or have severe chronic illnesses.

What I want to stress for counselors is to talk to their clients who win their cases in court with the question, “Now that you won, what do you want to do?” The same question can be applied for individuals already receiving benefits as well.  I ask my clients these questions on how they are going to live a quality of life that brings happiness to them. Too often, I hear from my adult clients how bored they are watching television all day. Some are unmotivated to get better in counseling.  Why would they? Their hidden agenda was to earn a paycheck on the taxpayer’s dole to either support their children and/or themselves. More than 50% of these clients get their cases closed due to exceeding their no-show limits when they win their case.  It is very disheartening to hear how some mothers continue to make babies they can’t afford and then reapply for SSI for their child a few years later. It is almost like “paid prostitution” by the government. The government pays and continues to pay for women and men acting irresponsibility with their bodies. When does the buck stop?

Anyway, what can we do to help our clients live productive quality of lives as a contributing member to society? This is what I do with some of my clients:
I ask the client to visualize about what activities or hobbies they would be interested in doing. Some say they like to write stories or poems about their past abusive histories. I encourage them to engage in this activity and to possibly think of sharing with others who have similar experiences.

I then ask the client if it is possible to work a part-time job since they are allowed to work receiving SSI benefits. While some will scorn at the idea of working because it is beneath them, others will seriously think about it. The problem with the former is that clients get stuck on the label of their diagnosis.  The payoff for them is to apply for every benefit where they don’t have to pay for it.  Change is not doable for them because it feels comfortable for them.  For the latter, those clients are bored of watching television and looking at the four walls in their home. They feel lonely and isolated.  Some will work a part-time job “under the table.” While I don’t like this choice to work off the record, I guess it is a good start forward to something better if it arises for them. They payoff for them is that it gets them out of the house and their mind is focused on something they like to do.

Wouldn’t it be nice if public campaigns on television were made to encourage people to either work or volunteer if they are on benefits? What can the counseling profession do to make this possible?

Robbin Miller is a counselor who specializes in mindfulness meditation; Positive Psychology; and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapies; and is also a volunteer cable access producer and co-host of her show, “Miller Chat” in Massachusetts.

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