Wednesday, May 26, 2010

(Father) You never forget your first time

On a more serious note..........

I went to a reunion/conference in Maine where we honored a man we had all been influenced by. At one point the topic turned toward memorable clients we had all had and whom we would never forget. I took the opportunity to share with them the first client I had ever sat with. I will never forget that 8 year old boy and our short journey together.

The mother and her two children walked into the Center. One of the trainees saw the daughter while I saw the son. We did play therapy which consisted of sandbox and drawing. We also played board games about anger and feelings. I had seen the boy about ten times when the mother suggested we stop therapy. As far as I know, there wasn’t contempt on her part. If I hadn’t been such a newbie I would have wanted to sit down and ask her why. Furthermore, if I hadn’t been such a newbie I would have asked for time to transition him out of not seeing me anymore. Instead I asked, “You mean today”?

“Sure” was the reply. I walked into the session and explained to the boy I would not be able to see him any longer. He continued to play with the leggos and not say anything to me. Five minutes later I repeated myself in case he had not heard me the first time. I received the same response. Halfway through the session I felt as if time was running out and he needed to understand we had to say goodbye. I said as much to him, this time he jumped up, ran to the door, flew it open and ran down the hallway. I was shocked to say the least. I ran after him and eventually saw him on a stairway next to the waiting room. His head was down and he was crying. Mom and I sat next to him, but he refused to be coaxed back to the room. The boy left with his mom and sister. It was then that I realized how much I had meant to him. The quiet child who played toys with me cherished our time together. I made a promise to never underestimate my importance to a client no matter what their reaction is to me. It’s not arrogance, it’s simply the dynamic of the profession and the warranted or unwarranted power that comes with it.

A couple of months later, after I had already left the Center, I received a phone call. The secretary from the Counseling Center asked if I would come back and make an exception to see only one client. The boy. The chance of redemption filled me with both anxiety and relief.

A tragedy had befallen the family and the mother wanted me to see him for ten sessions. I don’t remember the first 9 sessions very clearly, but I do remember reminding him, after each session, how many sessions we had left. The tenth session went very quickly. We played airplanes. At the end, I sat down on a child’s stool and said it was time to go. This shy and tender child walked up to me with his head down. For a moment I didn’t know why he was standing in front of me. Then I had the feeling he was waiting for something. We are not supposed to touch our clients. Especially as a newbie and especially a child. But I wrapped both my arms around his body and picked him up off the ground. “You are a good boy” I whispered in his ear. I set him down and he walked out the door. Taking a part of my heart with him. That is why I sometimes wonder, “What is that 16 year old boy doing now?”.

No comments:

Post a Comment