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Office Workers Flock to Lunchtime Lifestyle Advice in the Chicago Loop

August 5, 1992

CHICAGO (AP) _ Two therapists are offering tips for emotional well-being over a bag lunch in a church basement - and hundreds of workers from the Loop are dropping by.

The 45-minute programs, offered free, are a combination self-help lecture, role play and therapy session intended to help people improve their relationships, says Joseph Hiller, a psychologist who runs the series.

″My mission in life is to help ordinary people be more effective and satisfied with their lives,″ he said.

Some 70 people were on hand for Wednesday’s program, part of Hiller’s ″Repair My House″ series, which has drawn more than 5,000 people to St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church over the past year, said Susan Lubas, coordinator of church liturgy.

″It gives real good learning tools,″ said Caryn Sweet, an accountant in the Loop, Chicago’s downtown business district. Sweet attends most weeks: ″It’s real uplifting in the middle of the day.″

″The topics are so appropriate to daily living,″ agreed Lorraine Rakowski, an out-of-work executive secretary.

Mary Faso, the church’s coordinator of ″Repair My House,″ began Wednesday’s session by urging the mostly female audience to ″give ourselves a hand for taking care of ourselves.″

Hiller and partner Marilynn Rochon, who has a master’s degree in counseling, launched into this week’s topic: confrontation.

″There are two phrases I want you to remember,″ said Hiller. ″What’s going on here? - say it.″ The audience repeated the phrase.

″And what needs doing?″ said Hiller. The audience responded.

″A confrontation is an invitation to another person to think about something they’re doing,″ says Rochon, strolling the aisle, microphone in hand.

″Try saying, ’I don’t particularly like what you said, but I’m really glad you told me to my face,‴ Hiller advised.

The two pulled a man from the crowd to play out the roles in a husband-wife spat.

Some in the audience took notes. Others munched brown-bag lunches.

″People are hungry for ideas they can use to repair themselves,″ Hiller said outside the session.

Dr. Jonathon Goldman, a private psychiatrist who is not involved in the program, said some people need individual psychotherapy and don’t get it in the sessions.

″What would scare me about it is, you could really bring out some problems in people, and who would deal with it after the fact?″ Goldman said.

Rochon said a number of those attending have sought her or Hiller for private sessions.

″I would not consider that counseling or even self-help,″ said Nancy Molitor, a psychologist and chair of the Illinois Psychological Association’s public affairs committee.

But such groups could be helpful, especially if used along with private psychotherapy,″ Molitor said. ″Frankly, it’s a great marketing angle,″ she said.

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