How the Weiner, Schwarzenegger and Edwards Scandals Helped Me Help a Client

06/29/2011 03:29 pm ET | Updated Aug 29, 2011

About a year ago, I received a call from the father of a young boy whom I had treated several years ago. The father reassured me that his son was doing fine, but he wanted to talk with me about a problem of his own. In my office, he told me that he had been living under a black cloud of depression and anxiety for several years. He had consulted a psychiatrist, who had prescribed antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications for what the doctor thought was a "chemical imbalance." The medications had helped for a time, but they weren't working anymore. The psychiatrist had changed his medications several times, but nothing helped his depression for very long. He didn't understand why he was feeling so bad, because he had a wonderful life: a successful and rewarding career, a wonderful wife, three beautiful children who were doing well and no financial problems.

I worked with this man for several months. We looked into his childhood, his work, his extended family, his marriage. Everywhere I hit a wall. Everything about his life seemed healthy and normal. When he said that he craved connection with a higher power, though he did not believe in any particular organized religion, I suggested meditation. A Buddhist meditation center had recently opened in our community, and I had heard good feedback about it. He said this was a good idea and that he would pursue it.

I didn't hear from him until a few weeks ago. He said that he had started going to meditation classes and that he liked them, but he was still feeling terribly depressed. Then, as suddenly as it was unexpected, he confessed to me that he had had several affairs during the course of his marriage. They were brief affairs with different women, and none of them had lasted longer than three months. He had met the women while traveling on business. None of the women was in his life at present, and he hadn't had an affair for the past four years. But he was overwhelmed by guilt and the fear that he would lose his marriage. He asked if I thought his secret affairs had anything to do with his depression, and I said they had everything to do with it.

During our next conversations, we quite naturally talked about Weiner, Schwarzenegger and Edwards. My client related to these men because he, too, was in a position of power. He said that the affairs had made him feel more powerful. How ironic, I reflected. The headlines about the sexual indiscretions of these famous men had brought my client's own indiscretions to the forefront of his consciousness. Not able to repress his festering secret any longer, he was able to confide it to a therapist and face the reality of what he had done. From an impasse of many years, he was now able to move forward toward healing.