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Feb 23, 2002
I really don't want to post this, but I need to get some input from anyone in the know.

I'm a regional captain hoping to get on with a major someday. I am having some serious marriage difficulties, and am on the brink of divorce. My wife wants me to get personal psychological counseling; she thinks I'm depressed (we've already had a few couples' sessions). I'm very reluctant to do this because I fear the career ramifications when it comes time to interview at a major or go for my next medical. On the other hand, I don't want to lose my family. Does anyone out there have experience with this sort of thing? Will undergoing therapy hurt my chances of moving up to the big leagues someday?

Thanks for any replies.

I don't have any experience in the field of clinical depression, but I do know it is widespread and stems from a variety of factors. Having said that, I was raised under the notion that health and family come before all else. There are more important things than flying planes; however you can probably have health, family AND career if you work at it. I would recommend seeing a marriage counselor first, with your wife. I don't think that would hinder your chances of getting on with a major in the future. I couldn't even hazard a guess as to how many airline pilots have had to seek marriage counseling.

The counselor should have the ability to coach your marriage and help you with individual demons at the same time. Best of luck to you.
I was under the impression that seeing a psychiatrist/psychologist would be confidential. How would anyone find out? I would see a psychologist first. They don't prescribe medicine so you won't be taking anything psychotropic or something that would affect your mind.

Just because she thinks your depressed doesn't mean you are. Are you active? If not get outdoors. Find something to do with your time off. I read somewhere besides heart problems psychological ones are the next biggest disqualifier for pilots getting a medical.
I'm only guessing but a counselor not associated with a big group and paid for by your own funds (not insurance) should not leave a paper trail.
Counselors and paper trails

I work in a PI law practice, in which we help clients who've been injured in auto collisions, so I'm drawing on my experience to comment. We deal every day with obtaining provider records.

A lot may depend on the type of counselor you will see. Psychiatrists, psychologists and similar professionals indeed leave paper trails. Somce of them make it very difficult to obtain their records. At the very least, a person has to sign a release giving permission to obtain the records.

There may be other ways to obtain help without seeing a shrink or similar counselor. Have you thought about seeing your clergy? Your communications with clergy are 100% privileged. Moreover, unless the person has a professional speciality, you wouldn't have to disclose him/her at your next medical. Of course, you have to be honest when you complete that form.

Hope this helps a little. Best wishes to you.
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ALPA has an aeromedical staff that can assist pilots with confidentiality. Check out their link in the members only section at www.alpa.org. To quote: " A major obstacle is the typical pilot’s fear of having to report any counseling or treatment to the FAA and thereby permanently losing his or her airman medical certificate. This fear is unjustified in most cases." Give them a call.
Wif -

My personal opinion... As much as I love flying, family comes before everything else. I give you all the credit in the world for asking for advice and wanting to work this out. That being said...

I was only at a regional for three days before my entire class was fuloughed, but we did get the lecture on benefits the company and ALPA offered us. One of those benefits we were offered was the use of councelors to discuss any problems that we might have had the misfortune to come across. I don't remember if they were specialists (ie. psychiatrists or psychologists), but they did guarantee that all information would be kept anonomys. They were an outside company contracted through either ALPA or the airline, so your current employer, or union, would have no idea you even went to speak to them. If I remember correctly, family members were welcome to go with you to speak with them. Might be something to look into a little more.

I also like bobbysamd's idea of talking to your clergy.

I wish you the best of luck in working this out.
This gentleman (Doc) could provide you with a pretty comprhensive answer as well. Good luck. Doc's FAR Page

Another option is if you belong to a church you can get counseling there. I went there when my wife and I were having problems and no one really knew about it. Unfortunately even that didn't save it and I'm currently going through a divorce for a myriad of reasosns. To this day I still think if there is/was something more I could have done. Family life is very important to me but unfortunately it doesn't always work out. It is important to have a clear mind when in the cockpit and not have to think about anything else other than doing what you're supposed to do. Also when going through tough times it is nice to have someone you can share your problems and concerns with. Good luck and I hope you work out your problems!


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