THERAPY IMPROV!

globe-stress-ball-super-crop-2

Given the current historical moment, I find myself in need of humor born from innocence, not facing its own death on the gallows.* Realizing that today’s post was meant to be Part 2 of the poignant story begun last month, I nonetheless hope you’ll enjoy this station break from Doomsday programming, reflected in the arc of the post.

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It had been a Day. I’d spent it with a young man who’d punched a wall before our morning appointment, who sat silent and hurting before me for an hour, his knuckles raw; then with his mother, who fought the urge to beat the son who had been beaten as a child by her ex-husband and abuser. Then with a formerly neglected little girl almost paralyzed by the fear that her advocate and protector might be taken from her, any minute, by illness or a relative’s intervention.

I’d spent it with a teen whose biological father had abandoned her, who had made sexual allegations against her mother’s long-time live-in partner, then retracted them when faced with the possibility of a broken home, then attested to them again after investigations had been closed. I’d spent it debriefing with my supervisor about how to handle the information and the necessary DCYF call, as well as seeking advice on another volatile case, of a bitter custodial dispute, with the vilest he-said, she-said I’ve yet encountered.

Before, between, and after all that, I made calls and filed notes on those calls; closed two cases; worked to catch up on paperwork that by Wednesday had buried me in an avalanche, after I’d started the week with a clear desk and a clean slate; and participated in a group interview of a clearly gifted therapist—knowing, as I asked questions and made welcome, how low our team morale was, how hard the work of community mental health truly is, and how poorly appreciated, to say nothing of compensated, by our administration we all felt.

Then it was five o’clock, my last appointment of the day: a new-to-me client inherited from a recently defected colleague’s caseload, a small boy with a startling vocabulary and a lisp, brought in by his current guardian. “Look, it’s my stress ball!” he said, showing me a spongy tennis-ball-sized approximation of our planet. I asked if I could hold it. I gave it a squeeze and turned it around. “Oh, look!” I said, locating the blobby outlines of our country; I pointed to our misshapen corner of it. “There we are!”

“We’re not there!” he said. “Yes, we are,” I said, pointing again— “See? You’re wearing a red shirt and tennis shoes.” He drifted away from me and stood looking out the window. “What are you doing?” his guardian asked, bemused. He turned back to look at me in challenge: “I don’t see your finger!”

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Out of respect for client privacy, names are always changed. Text and image copyrights held by me. If you enjoyed this piece, please consider sharing it. To subscribe and receive future posts, please look to the upper right on your computer screen, or scroll to the bottom of the page on your mobile device. Thank you for reading. * “Gallows humor,” for non-native English speakers, is humor conjured when prospects are grim.

4 thoughts on “THERAPY IMPROV!

  1. Much respect to you, for working in community mental health, working with kids and adolescents…being a safe space to the young clients who need you. 💜

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello, there! I feel very lucky to have worked with the amazing kids (and families) I write about here – who definitely needed someone, though not necessarily me. To see positive change is tremendously rewarding. Unfortunately, in the United States, the idea that social work is noble and rewarding is taken as sufficient compensation, and workers are shockingly underpaid for an incredibly demanding job. I hope to say more on this subject in the future. Meanwhile, I hope you’re well!

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s the case in my country too. Social Work being underpaid and overworked since there’s the notion of running on passion. I don’t work in mental health but know some who do, and you all deserve so much more societal, institutional, and workplace support!

        I’ve been alright, I hope you’re getting recharged and refuelled 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • It’s not just social work either, of course – public school teachers often get a similar raw deal, as do many home health care providers. Is it a coincidence that these roles that so lack material compensation, which are often perceived as “nurturing” or “helping” rather than “skilled,” are largely female professions? No, it is not! I’ve been able to recharge with some nice walks lately, and even a little bit of cooking. Thank you again for all the kind thoughts. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

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