Ask Fiona: Can I start a new career at 39?

Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers her perspective on family dramas, emotional issues and dysfunctional relationships. This week, a single mum wanting to start a new career, a dad terrified of the dentist and how to cope with criminal phone calls

With advances in technology and medicine, there's nothing to fear from going to the dentist these days
Fiona Caine

I'M A single mum with two teenage daughters. Now they're old enough to be a bit more self-sufficient, I'd really like to do a bit more, work-wise. I've done a bit of IT work in the past and really enjoyed it and thought perhaps that might make a good career route.

However I'm worried that, at 39, I'm too old to restart my education and also that my chances of work are minimal anyway.


Fiona says: You're never too old

You're most certainly not too old to train for a new career and many employers would welcome someone with a bit of maturity. The National Careers Service website ( has lots of advice to look at.

You could also talk to your local Adult Education Centre to see what options they have available. I am guessing you would need to continue working while you study in order to support your children, in which case you could also consider distance learning.

However, there are vast numbers of schemes out there, so perhaps take some careers advice on which route to go down. Women Like Us ( would also be well worth looking at and, perhaps, talking to as well.


Eight years ago, when I was 17, I was raped. The man concerned was sent to prison and everyone was incredibly supportive at the time. I suppose I've gone out of my way to avoid a sexual relationship since, but I am now with a man I love and would like to overcome my fears.

The other day when we were kissing and things looked like they might go further, I froze and burst into tears. I tried to explain to him about the rape, but I don't think I made much sense and I'm not sure he believed me. I'm afraid he thinks I don't love him.

How on earth can I hope to keep him interested in me if I won't have sex?


Fiona says: Be patient, it's understandable

People around you may assume that this situation has been resolved but clearly it is still affecting you deeply. If this is the closest you have come to a sexual encounter since the rape, then it's not surprising you reacted the way you did.

If this man cares for you, then I'm sure he can understand that something has upset you, even if he doesn't yet understand what happened to you. Try and explain to him again when you are feeling calmer and more in control.

You may well need patience and understanding before you feel ready to have a sexual relationship and, whether or not you had counselling before, more now might help.

Speak to your GP or else contact Rape Crisis (; or for advice and support.


My husband had terrible problems in the past with the dentist and is now absolutely terrified of going anywhere near one. He admits that although he no longer finds it painful, he struggles to control his fear of going and usually gets tension headaches for several days before an appointment.

We are both concerned that our young children should not pick up on his problem and become as bad as he is, but what can be done?


FIONA SAYS: Try hypnosis

You husband is one of a very large number of people who retain an irrational terror of the dentist – even though these days there is no real reason for it. Modern equipment and anaesthetics have made pain virtually a thing of the past, and dentists themselves are more aware of the needs of nervous patients.

I believe you are right though in trying to avoid your children becoming affected by his fears, so getting him help might stop this happening. Hypnosis has been very successful with very many people and, if your husband would be willing to give this a go, I suggest he contact his GP or dentist for a referral.

There are a number of different associations for hypnotherapists and his own health professionals will know people they can recommend.


I BOUGHT a flat for myself 18 months ago and I was really happy to have a place of my own, but my life is being made a misery. Nearly every night, and sometimes many times a night, I get unpleasant phone calls.

Sometimes they're rude and sometimes they're aggressive and threatening. I'm sure it's the same person and the calls are making me a nervous wreck. I can't give up my landline and just use a mobile because I get no signal in my flat. I just don't know what to do.


Fiona says: Call the police

This is a criminal offence and whether the person is someone you know or a stranger you should tell the police. If the call is threatening, call 999 right away and explain what is going on.

If you don't feel the threat is immediate, you can still call the police on 101 and they will help you to resolve this. Your phone provider should be able to help you deal with these calls and can work with the police to trace the perpetrator, if necessary.

The provider should have a nuisance or malicious calls team, so call and ask to speak to them. Please don't put up with this for a moment longer – this person is a criminal who must be stopped.

:: If you have a problem you'd like Fiona's advice with, please email


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