Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: I have a therapist I have sessions with several times a month. I've been going to him for three years now, and he has helped me through many rough patches in my life. He is a sophisticated, trustworthy, perceptive and wise psychologist in his mid-60s. My problem is this: On two appointments within four months, he seems to have been medicated, acting slow, dazed and with slightly slurred speech. During these two sessions his advice and viewpoints were useless, and I felt like my time and money were wasted. I realize this has happened only twice, but I am concerned with showing up to an appointment and not knowing what condition he may be in. I'd like to confront the issue in some way, but I fear hurting his feelings, his pride and our doctor/patient relationship. I treasure this doctor, and don't want to lose him. I would love your advice on a direction to take.

Confused Client

DEAR CONFUSED: The ideal place to confront any issue with your therapist is -- in therapy.

Therapists don't normally discuss their own lives in a session, nor should they. But if your therapist is behaving in a way that baffles, upsets you, or affects the quality of his care, it becomes an appropriate issue to discuss during the session.

Your therapist might have a health issue or other personal problem or addiction that is impairing his ability to provide the care he is capable of providing and which you deserve. You and he have built up a commendable relationship based on his expertise and your mutual trust. Now you should draw upon that and tell him what you have noticed. In this case, the go-to therapist's question, "How does that make you feel?" should be met with a very honest answer from you.

DEAR AMY: I am 54 years old and my problem is that I want to go to college, but because of my financial situation and other problems I am having trouble getting there. I always wanted to continue going to school while I was younger but I have three children and two have had very serious health issues. My husband also has had quadruple-bypass open-heart surgery, so as you can see I have had a very busy life. Is it too late for me? Please let me know what you think.

Hopeful

DEAR HOPEFUL: I love your question, because I am somewhat of a personal expert on this particular subject. My own mother started attending college when she was 48 years old, after several years spent working as a typist in an office. She went on to get her undergraduate and then her master's degree. Education late in life changed her life in profound ways. It was also wonderful as a young person to see my mom (who raised my siblings and me as a single mother) taking tangible steps to pursue her education.

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Community college might be the best place for you to start. Community colleges offer quality education at a great value. You may have help financing your education through scholarships and grants. Explore all of this thoroughly before making your decision. I assume your entire family will be thrilled and proud if you make this life-affirming choice.

DEAR AMY: I have a few words for "Upset Engineer" (whose parents were discouraging her): Don't give up your dreams! I majored in electrical engineering, and like you my parents didn't think it was "feminine" and wanted me to go into medicine. Like you, I came from a culture where parents felt they could dictate their children's paths. I tried their medicine suggestion (briefly), then understood the true meaning of being grown up: making your own decisions and leading your own life. Forty years later I have no regrets -- I have been a successful engineering executive, a CEO, and am happily married with two children. But achieving my dreams required growing a backbone and making it clear (politely) to my parents that these were my decisions to make, and mine alone.

Fellow Female Engineer

DEAR ENGINEER: The enthusiastic response and encouragement from women engineers is inspiring. I hope "Upset" is paying attention.