Child work

Posted by on Sep 5, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

One of my teachers told me that even if the client is actually an adult, all therapy work is with the child. Whether we are now eight or eighty, our younger selves remain.  Whatever was left unfinished at a younger stage remains so, until it is resolved.  The following is a vignette from an actual child I worked with, who taught me so much.

Sitting with my eight year old client, she is in tears.  She has lost a relationship that she really treasured.  Or thinks she has lost it.  We talk about how she can stay in touch, and how she can hold this person in her heart, even if they never see each other again.  As I let her be in her sadness I begin to panic quietly, internally. She sinks deeper into experience.  I worry, what if I am not be able to offer her an alternative?  I can’t abandon her there, but I also do not want her to develop a belief that sadness is not endurable, that feelings must be avoided.  I touch into my own sadness and in that moment, remember there is something beyond it.  Her sobs subside.  Her breath becomes more regular.  We are both quiet.

I look for some way to share with her my own experience beyond sadness.  There is grass growing at our feet.  Nothing like using what’s at hand.  I pick a piece of grass and ask her if she minds if I make a funny noise.  She is intrigued, says no, she doesn’t mind.   I make a grass whistle, and the sound is much louder than I expected.  It’s raucous.  On her face I first see surprise, and then she giggles.  Her therapist is being very silly.  We spend the rest of the session practicing the fine art of making grass whistles and offering to demonstrate the same to family members who pass by with their therapists.

I don’t know if my client will forget this session as the years go by, but I don’t think I ever will.  To me it represents so many essentials.  First off, whether the client is chronologically a child or not, so much of the time, therapy involves contacting the child.  Working with children is every bit as serious as working with adults, and working with adults can be as much fun as working with children.  Both require respect and care.  The other thing I will remember is my own feeling of being at a loss, followed by a reminder of my own healing experience, then backed up by years of studying theory and technique.  And yes, I can give sound theoretical reasons for using a grass whistle as a therapeutic intervention.  Joy can provide some serious therapy.

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