That’s Not Therapy!: When Others Don’t Understand

I hope everyone’s recovered from the holiday. Personally, I’m still recuperating. Between writing this on my phone due to not having an internet connection, and Steam being down (while Left 4 Dead 2 was free, I might add), I have plenty of built up tension.

But worry not! Today is a new day in which to play our new games, return stuff we don’t want for things we do, find places to display our new action figures, and discuss another geeky therapeutic issue.

Before all of the craziness of the holidays, I was supposed to take my client to see The Desolation of Smaug (sweet day at work, right?)…but it didn’t happen.

Promo Poster for the film 'The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug'. Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

(Image via FanSided)

He was told by his caregivers that he couldn’t go, and that he needed to go on the regularly scheduled outing that day.

Now, many of you might think that it’s not such a big deal. Here’s why (to me) it’s important. My client is having a hard time coping with the stress of the holidays. He lives in a group home, away from his family. His mom also passed away a few years ago and the holidays are a strong reminder of that. That would be hard to cope with for anyone, right?

The movie was supposed to be our last session before I left on a 2 week vacation. He’s having a hard time with me leaving, and I wanted to give him an enjoyable experience before I left. This movie is all he’s been talking about for a month.

The problem is that the staff at the group home weren’t able to really see the therapeutic qualities of taking him to the movie. They see movies as rewards, and his behavior at the time didn’t warrant a trip to a movie.

Here’s the thing…I was going to use it as a tool to help him open up about his feelings surrounding the holidays, not a reward. Teenagers are much more likely to talk about things while they are engaged in an activity that they find enjoyable. They relax and are able to set down of some of the emotional baggage they’ve been carrying around.

It’s much easier to open up the baggage and take a look at what you have packed in there once you put it down.

Because of the staff’s inability to wrap their heads around the idea of a fun outing being something other than something to be earned for good behavior, my client shut down. Not only was my attempt to effect change not successful, it caused my client distress because he saw it as being taken away from him.

(Image via All That’s Epic)

When I showed up to meet with him, he was upset about not seeing the movie. He was also not in a space to open up about, well, anything.

It was incredibly frustrating, for both me and my client, and his reaction definitely pulled on my heart strings. I felt bad that I had made an offer that couldn’t be followed through on. The session wasn’t all bad, though. He did talk…just mostly about surface stuff like what he wants for Christmas. Anything deeper would have been too much for him to handle.

The frustration over not going to the movie and not having one-on-one time with me, added on top of his anxiety/depression about not being home with his family and missing his mother, overloaded his circuits. We worked some to get the feelings under control, but I feel as though I only got him back to where he was before we started the day, whereas my goal had been to put him in a better place than he was when he had woken up.

To the staff’s credit, I didn’t make a further argument to take him to the movie. I could have explained that it was not a reward, but a therapeutic tool. In the moment it was easier to leave things at that and help my client cope with not going to the movie.

In the future, I know it would better serve him to explain how it will be helpful to him and help the others on his treatment team understand how I work with clients and the tools that I use.

I suppose that’s all part of being a student and intern; learning from what we do to better our practice in the future.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top