Friday, January 12, 2007

Novocaine for the soul

The professor for my Intro to Guidance and Counseling class this semester is a very soft-spoken middle-aged woman who wears cute sweaters and cuts her hair very short, and looks like she should be playing an organ in a suburban church somewhere in Iowa. She's very sweet, though, and I like her a lot.

Today we were talking about bringing our own values into therapy sessions with clients (assuming, of course, that we were all the therapists) and she told us a story about when she was in grad school. She didn't say where she went, but she said it was on the east coast, and was a very conservative religious institution. As a student, she had to enlist a student willing to undergo five sessions with her acting as the therapist to the student, and the student had to be willing to have the sessions recorded for later analyzation by my teacher's own professors at that time.

Anyway, she cajoled a young man she vaguely knew into doing it, who was suffering a fair amount of angst and anxiety after going through what he had said was a pretty rough breakup. They talked it out for five sessions, but throughout those five sessions, the student only referred to his other as "the person I broke up with." Over and over again he would say that, never supplying a name or any kind of real identity to the person. Naturally this discouraged my professor, so when the young man agreed to come back for a sixth session, without being recorded, in other words, with true confidentiality, my professor asked him if he would just humor her by providing a name, any name, to refer to his ex. So with some hesitation, the young man said, "My ex's name is David."

Several students in my class has already figured out that this is what was happening, and there were some nods and smiles of recognition. Anyway, my professor went on to say that she was stunned, and the first thing she wanted to do was stop everything and call her professor and ask what she should do. She said she'd never had any experience working with homosexuals, and had never even, to her knowledge, known any.

But she continued on with the session, doing her best to hide her discomfort. She said at that time that it would have been so easy for her to have said something to have severely damaged this man who was clearly already suffering a great deal, and even she wasn't sure what her values were in this case, and whether or not this was something she wanted to take on.

After that session, the man convinced her to take him on for another 6 sessions, unrecorded, just as client and therapist. She somewhat begrudgingly agreed to do so, but figured it would be an interesting way to challenge herself and perhaps try to figure out what her values really were. She also admitted that this could have really backfired and was pretty irresponsible of her; in other words, figure out your values first!

Long story short, she and this young man clicked really well and ended up forming a very intense and healthy therapist/client relationship, and the young man started telling all of his friends about her. "Pretty soon," she said, "I had every gay guy on campus coming to see me." My class erupted into laughter when she said this.

So, obviously, everything turned out well and she said she learned more than she could have imagined from this man. They lost touch, but she said that she wished she could find him now and tell him how much he changed her life and outlook.

I just thought that was a sweet story.

1 comment:

karen said...

That's amazing! She sounds like she will be a great mentor to have around. I'm excited for you to be surrounded by good people and having such a great experience with school!