Op-ed: The Counselor Who Sought Help From a Dying Friend

Sobriety and the encouragement from a supportive friend helped Mike Deninger craft a tell-all of his childhood and lend a hand to others looking for closure and clarity.



Snakes in My Dreams: A Mental Health Therapist’s Odyssey From Hardship to Healer was finally launched this summer, 15 years after that conversation and coming up on 20 years after the memories began returning. The memoir is an account of my enigmatic dreams, forgotten events, self-examination, coming out, strife, and perseverance, all pieced together in a manner that illuminates the interplay between conscious and unconscious thought. As the title implies, it’s a portrayal of my journey from chaos to balance, including a lot of craziness in between.   

In addition to completing the book, I did become a licensed counselor and established Phoenix Counseling and Hypnotherapy in Alexandria, Va., where I  specialized in the treatment of LGBT individuals and those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. I took advanced training in alternative therapies and became a certified trainer and leading proponent of the use of eye movement integration (EMI), a dynamic therapy for resolving symptoms associated with trauma. I have worked with clients as diverse as combat veterans; victims of rape, sexual abuse, and physical assault; 911 first responders; police and fire officials; and others suffering from PTSD.   

Now, as a board member at Male Survivor: The National Organization Against Male Sexual Victimization, I’ve joined another fight. It seemed only right that I should. That’s what you do when you learn something that can help others — you pass it on. When I travel the country, whether I’m doing book promotions, sharing my personal story of abuse and recovery, speaking out against all forms of sexual victimization, or teaching the healing qualities of EMI, I think of the Samaritans I met along the way. They’re woven into the stories I tell. Jon was one of them.

Saying that he was the cause of my renewal would be overstating his involvement, although something tells me he would gladly take credit for the lot of it. Jon passed away in 2001 from the disease he so fiercely railed against. I miss him, but I’m ever so thankful that I was there to ease his discomfort that night in 1997, and he was there to tell me to put on some music and sit down and start writing.


For more on Snakes in My Dreams or to read more about Deninger’s work, visit Deninger.com

Tags: Health