Saturday, September 1, 2012

I Walk the Line

Here's the thing. I pride myself on being objective and clinical when I step back and assess what's going on with a client. I am a big picture person. I look at the whole shebang from childhood to the future ten years down the road. I am without doubt attached to my clients. I am protective of them and because of that I work with outside agencies on their behalf on a regular basis. It's a hard line to walk sometimes. Not getting emotionally involved on some level is basically impossible for me. I know there are other therapists out there who don't have this problem. They don't connect with their clients on the deeper level I actually pride myself on. In grad school we were taught that successful therapy is 85% dependent on the relationship between therapist and client. You can use whatever modality you want, if that client is not invested they are not going to get results.

This doesn't mean I like or agree with things clients do all the time. However, I challenge myself to remember that their diagnosis does not define them. It is a part of their lives but it is not who they are. If I reject them or judge them what is the point of them coming to see me? They can get rejection and judgment anywhere - for free and without having to drive all they way to my office. It's my job to tell them, "Hey, I saw what you did there. I'm curious about it and I think you are too. Let's figure out what happened and how to move forward."

In all the years I have been doing therapy I have never been wrong. About anyone. And this time I know I'm right, but it doesn't matter. What I am learning (and it is a bitter lesson) is that I can be right about someone all day long but if CPS has decided something, there is nothing I can say or do to change that. In fact, the harder I try to make my case, the worse it goes. Advocate too strongly and I look like I'm overemotional and blinded. Step back and say nothing, it looks like I'm abandoning and distancing myself from the case - yet another nail in the coffin.

What I am experiencing is an absolute travesty of justice. Obviously, I can't give details but I can say watching children be hurt and traumatized because of the small-minded, short-sightedness of the people in power is sickening. Watching family members destroy each other, use children as pawns, and generally make punishing a parent into a game for sport, is nauseating. And heart burn inducing.

This again brings me to a place of powerlessness. And it is this feeling, this experience, that makes me say I don't want to do this forever. I don't think I can survive it. I never understood why so many therapists won't see children or even take state insurance. And don't get me wrong, I totally judge them for that because I think it's shallow but at the same time I can understand the desire to avoid the heartbreak and acid reflux.

Thankfully, despite my horror at news that things just keep getting worse, I have yoga group this morning. I will go forth and do some light processing and relaxing yoga with some lovely clients then I will get on with my day and see friends as planned. This does not define me or my life. I will not deny there is a palpable impact. But if I am to survive this career choice of mine, I have to resist the urge to fixate on the bad and let myself be sucked down into the darkness. I am no good to anyone if I let that happen. People need me to be okay because if I'm okay, they're okay. I can help, I can contribute, I can empathize, but only if I take care of myself and consciously and consistently force relaxation and distance. They are my life rafts and I am holding on to them with an iron grip.

Damn. That second part is hard!


  1. I can tell you are good, very, very good with your clients. Don't give up.

  2. The justice system is horrible! The agencies that back up the court systems (gals, family mediators, some therapists (not you) are all very corrupt! It is so sad to me that the good people in this world are not allowed to protect her kids due to the corrupt minds of the people involved. My kids too pay the price. I cry myself to sleep every night thinking about it:(

  3. Thanks DMDL! It's always nice to hear I'm not alone on this stuff!