Dear Amy:

I am a 16-year-old high school junior and I read your column every day when I come home from school. I usually agree with your advice, but sometimes it frustrates me.

When other teens write in with problems, a lot of times your response is to see a school counselor to tell their problems to or get help. Well, if you have ever been my age, you would know that school counselors have nothing to do with our personal lives.

I would ask a complete stranger for help before I would seek their advice.

For example, I saw my school counselor one time this year to tell her which classes I want to be signed up for. It took about five minutes, and she, in no way whatsoever, showed me that she was trained to work with youth or offer any kind of advice.

Many of our counselors at school are part-time school coaches who had to find a job in the school and were not trained to do anything else.

Do you see that this would not be the kind of person I would want to open up to with my personal issues?

I hope you see where I am coming from. I would suggest that you look for another alternative to teen problems.

In the Know

You're right. I have never been your age, so I can't possibly know how it feels to be a teen, surrounded by part-time coaches/counselors, untrained and disinterested adults, and advice columnists who just don't get it.

Wait a minute. I was your age.

My school counselor's name was Mr. Head. He was a former teacher, who, we assumed, probably could no longer cut it in the classroom. Because, you see, my friends and I were so much smarter than he was.

But the most important thing about Mr. Head (and the great majority of teachers, coaches, counselors, librarians and cafeteria workers at my school) was this: He cared about kids. He chose to make kids his career. If he didn't know what to do about something, he would do his best to find out what to do.

I think about Mr. Head often; I try to follow his wonderful example by doing my best to help.

Your school counselor might be a part-time coach or a full-time psychologist (most states require school counselors to have a master's degree). Your counselor might be a stranger or a familiar face from the hallway. But your counselor is a good first stop because even if a counselor can't handle your problem, he or she will probably know whom else to turn to for help.

Dear Amy:

A recent letter from "Concerned" could have been written by me.

"Concerned" was a young woman hoping to move in with and transform her boyfriend -- as soon as he got out of jail.

Unlike "Concerned," I was 40 years old and should have known better. I, too, thought that the love of a good woman would make him a better man. I tried making the break while he was locked up, but I felt that I was "abandoning" someone who "needed" me. To the dismay of my family and friends, when he got out of prison, I married him.

It only took about two months to realize that I had made a huge mistake. However, it took me more than a year to make the break. He was verbally and physically abusive.

I guess that I'm trying to tell "Concerned" to run as fast as she can! She may need counseling to make the break. Right now she is his salvation. He'll promise her anything and say anything to keep her.

I hope that "Concerned" takes your advice to find someone who is worthy of her. She is way too young to settle for Mr. Wrong.

Been There, Done That

Thank you for great advice, born of your own unfortunate experience. I was shocked at how many women wrote to me, sharing similar stories and all very concerned about "Concerned."

I hope that she is reading and takes your very sound advice.

(c)2005 by the Chicago Tribune

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