Woe is we.
Santa Feans are drinking harder, arguing more and otherwise showing symptoms of what can only be called recession depression.
At least, that’s the picture you get when you talk to those who make a living giving other people personal advice. For counselors of all persuasions, the global economic bummer is a boom time.
Business has been great for Debra Thompson—a “holistic” mental-health counselor, “not a woo-woo-type counselor.”
“I have gotten so many referrals that I am just thrilled,” Thompson says.
Last year, her business was up 70 percent over 2007, when many Americans still thought they had money.
She attributes some of that increase to a chain reaction of fear and anxiety that is “rippling down from the economy to the parents to the children.”
Here’s the short version: Dad is worried about money, so dad drowns his sorrows; dad is a jerk, so Junior starts talking back to his teachers at school.
Other local counselors also report a regrettable surge in business, partly as a result of another hard-times trend: people getting totally hammered.
“There is more drinking because of the economy,” Paolo Giudici, a counselor at Santa Fe Psychotherapy & Consulting, says.
The wealthy are not immune. Far from it. “I have patients who, what I make in a year, they lost overnight. Comparatively, it’s a big hit,” he says.
One of Giudici’s patients, a gallery owner, sold only one painting last month. “His life is not doing well. It’s basically going down the drain,” Giudici says.
It would be an overstatement, however, to say the recession is driving people crazy. “What really happens is the problems that are already there are exacerbated,” Beth Prothro of the Santa Fe Sage Counseling Center says. “The basic stressor, of course, is fear. There’s a lot of fear, economic fear.”
Many of Prothro’s clients report more tension at work. “They have differences of opinions with their superiors or a colleague, and they’re under additional stress…the state has stopped hiring, so people are doing more work than they used to,” Prothro says.
And those problems at work get carried home.
“I’m seeing a lot of families that are struggling because it feels like there’s less solid ground,” Keadron Finn, of Christian Counseling Centers of New Mexico, says. “When people’s anxiety rises, they look for coping skills, and not everybody’s coping skills are healthy. People fight more or self-medicate.”
Speaking of self-medicating: Buffy Siebel, manager of Herbs Etc. on Cerrillos Road, has noticed “a pretty significant increase” in sales of bulk herbs and bottles, “which leads me to believe people are making their own remedies.”
Generally, it seems counselors whose clients have health insurance are doing well, whereas those whose patients pay out-of-pocket are hurting. But it all depends on the services offered. Micro-economics gets messy when it runs into metaphysics.
While Sister Rosa, the palm reader off of St. Francis Drive, is offering a two-for-one special, more upscale spiritual advisers seem unaffected by the recession.
Ross LewAllen, a jewelry designer and shamanic healer, says his “soul retrieval” practice is holding steady. “People with a level of consciousness that want to deal with whatever—illness, addictions or cancer—it’s a whole different thing than the people who buy food at McDonald’s,” LewAllen says.
A different way of putting it: Whatever problems his globe-trotting clients might have, money isn’t often one of them. “If you fly from New York or London to Santa Fe, what can I say? You can afford it,” LewAllen says.
Another local shaman, Michele Rozbitsky—who says Mayan elders predicted the collapse of the US economy in 2008—has noticed increased attendance at her more-affordable group sessions.
“People feel a need to come together,” Rozbitsky says.
Rozbitsky charges $35 for her biweekly group sessions. Of course, some places offer community and spiritual support for free—and hard times may explain the growing attendance at local churches and temples.
Temple Beth Shalom has seen a recent increase in membership. “There will always be those who seek community when times are tough,” Rabbi Marvin Schwab tells SFR in a statement.
And although donations are down, the congregation is growing at the United Church of Santa Fe. “From the Reagan administration on, and with the dismantling of the human-services aspect of government, it’s been up to churches to shoulder the load,” Rev. Talitha Arnold says.
For Arnold, the recession provides an opportunity to drive home a point she has been plugging for 20 years—that there is more to life than material riches.
“Churches and other faith communities can provide ways of making sense of what’s going on,” she says.
Arnold asks her congregation to think of 10 things they’re thankful for every day. “For me, it’s green chile and blue sky,” she says.
She can also be thankful that only one of those things costs money.
Woe is we.