Kerry supporters seek therapy in South Florida
Boca Raton trauma specialist has treated 15 patients
Published Tuesday, November 9, 2004 by Sean Salai
More than a dozen traumatized John Kerry supporters have sought and received therapy from a licensed Florida psychologist since their candidate lost to President Bush, the Boca Raton News learned Monday.
Boca Raton trauma specialist Douglas Schooler said he has treated 15 clients and friends with "intense hypnotherapy" since the Democratic nominee conceded last Wednesday.
"I had one friend tell me he’s never been so depressed and angry in his life," Schooler said. "I observed patients threatening to leave the country or staring listlessly into space. They were emotionally paralyzed, shocked and devastated." Schooler’s disclosure comes after the weekend discovery of a Kerry volunteer’s corpse at Ground Zero in New York City. Georgia resident Andrew Veal, 25, reportedly killed himself with a shotgun blast to the head due to Kerry’s loss and a girlfriend problem.
Some mental health professionals in South Florida said Monday they have already developed a new category for the Kerry-related stress reactions. Because Palm Beach County voted heavily for Kerry, the therapists said, many residents hurt themselves by so anxiously expecting the Massachusetts senator to win "especially those who maintained unrealistic recount hopes after their candidate’s concession.
"We’re calling it ‘post-election selection trauma’ and we’re working to develop a counseling program for it," said Rob Gordon, the Boca-based executive director of the American Health Association. "It’s like post-traumatic stress syndrome, but it’s a short-term shock rather than a childhood trauma." Gordon, the first American Red Cross psychotherapist sent to Ground Zero after the 9/11 terror attacks, said therapists’ main concern is to prevent the recurrence of Kerry-related suicides like the one in New York City.
"There are definitely people depressed by John Kerry’s loss, and this can easily lead to suicides like the one we saw up in New York this weekend," Gordon said. "Luckily, it can be treated if people seek help. We’re urging people to call us immediately if they feel depressed or know anyone who is seriously stressed out."
Also in Boca, at least one counseling center and an emotional support group were preparing for an influx of Kerry supporters at their first post-election meetings today.
"We’ll let the Kerry voters talk about it and let off some steam, and by listening to other people’s stories, we’ll help them refocus and surrender to the things in their life which they can’t possibly change,” said a spokeswoman for Emotions Anonymous, a recovery group meeting tonight at Glades Presbyterian Church.
"We’re referring people with election-related stress to the Democratic National Committee," said Karen Jacobs of the Center for Group Counseling. "We’ll do what we can for anyone who shows up for our support group programs this week, but we haven’t implemented a specific program for Kerry-related trauma."
Schooler, practicing in Boca since 1984, said he treated his 15 patients last week with hypnosis-based rapid response trauma therapy. This week, he is charging a sliding fee to non-clients who feel they need the one-time "election therapy" session. South Floridians can contact him at 561-395-3033.
"A lot of Kerry voters don’t know what to do with their anger, because there was no recount, so they’ve kept it bottled up," said Schooler, who also is a certified sex therapist. "I help them transform the anger into more positive emotions."
Asked to describe symptoms of the post-election trauma, Schooler said, "They include feelings of extreme anger, despair, hopelessness, powerlessness, a failure to function behaviorally, a sense of disillusionment, of not wanting to vote anymore – that sort of thing. We’re talking about a deep, unhealthy personal suffering that can best be remedied by intensive short-term therapy."