When I did my psychotherapy training we were told to treat clients with care because they were vulnerable and to listen to what they say. Whenever anyone lays down a rule to everybody I always question it. We are all descendants of survivors. The further back we go in history the worse were the living circumstances for the vast majority. I believe it is best for practitioners to talk with them as we talk to everyone else. We are all in the same boat. A client once said to me “You cannot imagine how awful it is to be depressed”. “Indeed I can. I grew up during the war and was depressed throughout my adolescence. In those days no-one paid attention to children unless they didn’t do their homework”.
My client said “Am I working with a damaged therapist?” “Of course you are. You won’t find anyone who is not. My experience is that unless we have worked through out own difficulties and come to terms with them, we are not fit to work with clients”.
One day I had a phone call from a lady who was very distressed and wanted to come to see me that afternoon. She was crying so hard I could scarcely make out what she was saying. I made an appointment in two days time. When she arrived my husband opened the door and told her to go upstairs to my consulting room.
She sat down and continued crying very loudly for a few minutes. As she slowed down I spoke to her. “How long have you been doing this?” She stopped crying and looked very surprised. “I don’t know” she said. “You must know. You are doing it” I replied. “ten years?” She thought for a moment and started to cry again. “Two weeks?” I said. “You are slowing down now. I think I can cry much better than you.” I threw myself about and made the strongest screeches I could imagine. “See what I can do! Try it again and put more energy into it.”
She burst into laughter. When she had stopped she said “Don’t you want to know my story?” “Not particularly, but you can if you must.”
She started and before long she got into her stride.. I stopped her after ten minutes. “Do you know what you are doing?” “What do you mean?” she said. “You are very good at complaining. One of the best I’ve ever had.” She paused again and then laughed and couldn’t stop. “I didn’t know psychotherapists were like this.” “No they are not” I replied.
“Can I come to see you again? I don’t know what you are doing but I feel a lot better.”
“Well I suppose so but you must practice laughing every time you feel like crying. It must be more fun.”
“You do say funny things!” she said as she put her coat on and went downstairs chuckling to herself . My husband was astounded. “Whatever did you do with her? When I opened the door she was crying and ten minutes later I walked past your door and she was laughing!” There must be something in this psychotherapy lark. Well done!”
This lady came back after only two more visits. This doesn’t happen twice. Every client is different. She was an attention seeker, a particular species that I come across quite often. All they have to do is to find a new method.