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3/27/2003

Counselors offer help to unemployed

By Pam Mellskog
The Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT — A bout of unemployment freed time for Joe Wentland to finish weekend work such as home repairs and spring cleaning on Wednesday.

Like hundreds of thousands of other out-of-work Americans, this jobless man would probably have preferred to be out earning a paycheck. But he’s making the best of his situation — something critical to weathering the stressful season, according to Josef Tornick.

Tornick, who holds a master’s degree in counseling psychology, opened Front Range Counseling Services at 500 Kimbark St. last month in part to help the unemployed or underemployed cope better with time in between the old job and a new one.

He offers a sliding-fee scale and even free sessions for the flat-broke.

“No one will be turned away from getting the help they need for lack of funds,” he explained. “I know what it is like to have career and job upheavals — and how seriously this can impact your life and your sense of self.”

The Philadelphia-based Wentland said his long-distance sessions with Tornick via the telephone have helped him — a graphic artist who left the field after 18 years — to stay calm while soul searching.

“My life had been so crazy for so long, I really needed a break to ask ‘What do I really want to do?,’” Wentland explained.

He said counseling has helped him remain focused instead of overcome with worry.

Tornick said the majority of clients call him because they can’t shake the feeling of “being stuck.” That, in turn, distracts them from using the down time to both relax and re-evaluate.

Many factors create this sense of hopeless inertia, Tornick continued.

“But the ones that get the most stuck are those hoping to replicate what they had before they lost their job,” he explained. “That is, in a sense, arguing with reality.”

Though boredom prompted Wentland to leave his job, he said, the move created enough emotional distance for him to realize that he had essentially been making the best of it for nearly two decades.

“We can spend a lot of time assuring ourselves that we’re in a good place, when really — deep down inside — we’re not happy,” he explained.

Tornick said he understands that that living with unemployment might be all the more difficult in the short term. That is especially true given the value and identity most people get from their work.

“The landmarks of how you ruled your life are gone,” he said. “When those are gone, people ask, ‘Now who am I?’ It’s confusing.”

Yet, with some guidance, he said, that confusion can break the routines that keep so many from doing and being something closer to what he terms as “their highest expression.”

For more information, call Tornick at 303-772-6888.

Pam Mellskog can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 224, or by e-mail at pmellskog@times-call.com.