Post non-traumatic stress syndrome?

A "technotherapist" begins a Y2K recovery group, for those suffering the loss of millennial doom.

Published January 28, 2000 5:00PM (EST)

The millennium anxieties may be over, but the pain goes on. That's the theory, at least, behind a new Y2K recovery group starting next month in Berkeley, Calif.

"There's been a certain group of people who I'd say are feeling somewhat depressed. It's like we have all had a relationship with Y2K for one year -- or if we were working with Y2K, for three or five years -- and we're suddenly divorced on 1/1/00," says Sheryl Coryell, a licensed marriage and family counselor who co-founded the group. "There is loss involved. I'm not saying we wanted something bad to happen, but there is a relationship between you and this thing called Y2K. It artificially got cut off," she explains.

The group, which will also be led by therapist Claude DeLaubert, will meet for a minimum of six weeks and address the issues of loss and disappointment, as well as anger, guilt and shame experienced by those who feel betrayed by the media and retailers who capitalized on pre-New Year's hysteria.

People who carefully prepared for disaster by changing investments and stocking up on canned goods tend to be hardest hit by the Y2K letdown, Coryell says. "Those people are even more limited in talking about their feelings because of the shame involved, as if they did something wrong. But the thing is, if it had turned out differently, those would be the people we would say, 'They were prepared.'"

Coryell is somewhat unique among mental health professionals. She worked for 20 years as an MIS director and a system administrator prior to becoming a therapist. "I'm a 'technotherapist,'" she says with a laugh. "I have a Palm Pilot, a cell phone." She also owns a consulting business called Sage Advice, which trains people on how to use computers and software. Coryell says her corporate experience gives her special insight into how technology and work affect people -- and after Y2K, she became acutely aware that people were feeling upset and stressed, even though it was essentially a happy ending.

Sensible as Coryell's explanations for the group may be, it's difficult to shake a feeling of dij` vu. Prior to New Year's Day, a host of authors, magazines, "crisis investors," individuals and organizations got plenty of press mileage and no shortage of profit from the dreaded millennium bug. Isn't this recovery group just the last of such exploitative measures? Or at the very least, aren't most people just anxious to forget about it and move on?

Coryell says skepticism and incredulity are typical responses -- at first. "Initially, people laugh. But then, as you start to ask them a little more about the stress they're feeling, they stop laughing and go, 'Huh, yeah, that's what I've been feeling.' It's difficult to name."

By Jenn Shreve

Jenn Shreve writes about media, technology and culture for Salon, Wired, the Industry Standard, the San Francisco Examiner and elsewhere. She lives in Oakland, Calif.

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