Emely a 17-years-old girl with brown skin and dark hair was sitting in front of me with her eyes swelled in tears. A soft voice telling me “Wow, this is it? I thought that you would be more emotional about this last session. I won’t see you again. I will miss you.” The idiot in me responded- “We have been talking about termination for the last four months. I know it is difficult, but you are going to be OK.” This was not the proudest moment in the history of my clinical practice. She was a young girl who was in session with me for almost two years. A survival of sexual abuse by her stepfather, and neglectful treatment by her biological mother. We went through many boyfriends, fights with her father, multiple jobs, and many good grades. We shared getting her driver’s license, her acceptance to college, planning of her sweet sixteen, and two abortions. The words mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph, was the last thing she heard from me. Writing about it fills me up with sadness and a bit of shame. What was I supposed to feel at that time? What was I supposed to share? Even better- What was I allowed to share? Our feelings and emotions dictate the relationship we have with the people we serve, and in return, these experiences define the narratives for the person in treatment, and for ourselves.
In professional narratives fiction becomes an essential part of the historicity of the therapeutic relationship. To me, fiction and historicity are like depression and anxiety: they are close siblings. They grow up together, they don’t share all the same DNA, but they are part of the same family. If you see one, it is very likely that you see the other. This duality can be observed in all aspects of what we do as practitioners in the mental health field. We have this battle between what is expected of our professional selves which includes training, knowledge, competence, ethics, and our personal-private-inner self which includes values, feelings, emotions, and plain humanity.
Written by: Dr. Sakima Gonzalez, DSW, LCSW