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Monday, June 25, 2007

The Grass is Green Enough Here

I went to a continuing ed. event today, where the presenter asked for volunteers from the audience to be his clients and help demonstrate his therapeutic technique. I have always had mixed feelings about this practice by presenters. On the one hand, we get a birds-eye view of what the therapeutic technique looks like. On the other hand, you never know what sort of volunteer you're going to get. Sometimes you get someone whom you can tell came to this particular seminar in the hopes of getting a free therapy session from such-and-so famous therapist, or worse, someone exhibitionistic who came to get sympathy from a group of her (usually her) peers. Or sometimes, you get someone who is genuinely engaged in the seminar and being altruistic, generous, helpful, in volunteering.

The first time I saw this technique used was shortly after I earned my graduate degree, and it was a distressing, disturbing spectacle. The volunteer was someone who needed much more help than the presenter could provide, and was also someone who fell into the "exhibitionistic" category. And even worse, the presenter was an author of what was then considered the "bible" in its field, but she wasn't a credentialed therapist. She orchestrated a train wreck on the stage, and I don't know what happened to the therapist/client/volunteer. It was truly painful to watch, and ethically atrocious, in my opinion.

Today's presenter was competent, and those who volunteered were doing so out of genuine engagement with the material, and out of altruism, I do believe.

  • There was a woman whose young teen daughter had been abducted for a period of several hours, and had kept that a secret for years.
  • There was a woman whose daughter had physically abused her son (the daughter's little brother) for years.
  • There was a woman whose son was suicidal and currently hospitalized.
  • There was a woman whose sister had recently died.
  • There was a woman whose husband was deployed to Iraq as her children hit their teens, and his return was causing adjustment problems within the family.
  • There was a woman whose husband had been wounded in Iraq, and is being maltreated now by the military. He suffers from depression and inability to support his family financially, now.

These were all the same woman. When she volunteered, I feel certain she didn't know where the demonstration would go and how much a hotel ballroom full of strangers would learn about her. I left feeling like I'm doing OK. The Fairchilds will be OK. I hope the Volunteers will, too.

file under: &Work

22 heads are better than one . . .

Blogger lawyerchik said...

Wow. That's a pretty amazing list of crapola to happen to one person!! I think I'm going to call my parents and thank them for being decent people!! Yike.

Blogger Lynn said...

That's really awful, Susie. Who kept the secret about the abduction? Was it the daughter who kept the ordeal to herself, or do you mean that the mother had not had anyone with whom to talk about it for her own sake? What a bad situation.

Also, it bothers me deeply when our government neglects our veterans. This should be considered criminal. It's not okay for a soldier to desert their country, but it's okay for a big, powerful government to desert its soldiers? Talk about abandonment issues!!! What a disgrace!! This happens all the time. I used to take special satisfaction in pushing through those VA loans with shaky ratios because of this. It's an underdog thing, I think. And a fairness and justice thing.

Now I'm pissed off. I'd better go scrub something.

Blogger eclectic said...

The well-known "See? It could always be worse!" approach to mental health that I often use!! And you know? Things have never yet gotten so bad that they couldn't get worse, so I'm batting 1000 so far. ;)

All kidding aside, that poor dear -- I hope she finds enough assistance to pull her through. She's got some difficult days yet ahead of her, I think.

Anonymous sharkey said...

I'm totally a fan of the It Could Be Worse school of mental health. It's easy to joke about it and say those words, but some days a situation smacks you in the face and really makes you realize that it's true. Oddly, I find that it often happens to me shortly after I put up the decorations for one of my pity parties.


My heart breaks for that woman and her family; I truly don't know how some people hold it together. And this business of our government not doing everything in its power for our soldiers is truly sickening...but par for the course, unfortunately.

Blogger mrtl said...


Blogger Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

All the same woman, Susie? That’s a lot of trauma.

Yes, you are OK and will be OK. I know that in my gut, which is big and seldom perjures itself.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

ohmy...that's all i got...ohmy...

Anonymous stringmuse said...

Once again ... I'm counting my blessings.

Anonymous Ortizzle said...

God bless that poor woman. If she's a therapist, she's got more than she needs right there on the home front. And I'm with Lynn: not wishing to get too political, but when I hear about cases like this woman's husband, I want to take GWB and lock him up in a cold damp jail cell for the remainder of his days. Nuff said.

Blogger Susie said...

lawyerchik, heh. Yea. We should all thank all the decent people in our lives.

lynn, the child kept the secret. The parents saw behavior changes, but didn't know why.
Scrubbing when pissed? Gee, I need to cultivate that habit.

eclectic, yea, I never have had any doubts that things could be worse. It is good to look around and remind oneself of that, though. There was even more going on in that woman's life than I've put here. My colleagues and I reached the point where we thought, "He MUST have planted her, to have these problems, to demonstrate his theories..." But, no. It was real. :(

shawkey, well, hell, if I'd thought to put up decorations, I might not have gotten into such a state! Balloons. They always make me feel better :)

htgt, most people manage to do what they have to do. I hope we can manage to take proper care of soldiers and their families.

mrtl, yea. I know.

ssnick, yes, all one person. I value your honest gut's opinion :)

traci, I know; worse than lions and tigers and bears.

stringmuse, yep. That's my kind of math, too ;)

ortizzle, being at that seminar, I assume she's a therapist, although I cannot imagine how she handles one more thing -- others' troubles. Her husband's case was EXTREMELY complex. Don't want to give details to protect privacy, but there appeared to be incompetence, unethical documentation . . . unseemly goings-on.

Blogger WILLIAM said...

sometimes, counting ones blessings is the result of counting someone elses misfortunes.

Anonymous dawn said...

oh no, that's really sad. I hope she's getting the help she needs.

Anonymous sheryl said...

I am sending the Volunteer's family some loving healing thoughts. I hope they get what they need.

Funny how sometimes it's a blessing that perspective and awareness might not come until it's safe to deal.

Here's to dealing and the giant heart and cojones which dealing may require.

Blogger Squirl said...

What a brave woman. She not only lives it, she got up and opened herself in front of strangers with that. How invaluable for her audience. I hope she finds peace.

Blogger Nina said...

We can always find someone that has it worse and it helps us to count our blessings.

Living in the middle of the mental health field can at time and does really suck. There have been plenty of times when I just stuffed my emotions by saying you have no right to be feeling that way, and your life could be like theirs.

Then I learned that I could feel it process it and then say to myself count your blessing because your life isn't like theirs.

In the beginning of John and me, I found myself becoming more dramatic than I already am. Taking small things and making them into huge things. All I could think was this isn’t like me. John would point out that compared to what we heard that day my complaints were nothing. I would have to agree and know he was right.

When I had to quit work, it became different. So when he came home he had already heard it all. The last thing he wanted was to hear my complaints. I noticed that my drama factor increased. Then one day a light bulb moment. I told him I know you have seen awful things and heard the most horrible stories today. Be glad that my complaints are small things, but none the less I don’t want you to listen and brush me off. I need you to listen and hear me. Otherwise, I make my small problem into a huge one.

Now all I have to say is I know this is small, and I don’t want to feel the need to make it into a big thing. I have his attention.

At the end of the day when he comes home and has me to download to. I listen and I can’t help but feel blessed.

Anonymous Elizabeth said...

God bless her.

I feel like burning my "crap hit the fan list"..instead,I'll keep slogging thru and deal.

We all have our shiznit to cope with. Her shiznit is on steroids.

Blogger SassyFemme said...

OMG, that poor woman.

Blogger Circus Kelli said...

Just... Wow.

Blogger Von Krankipantzen said...

Jeeez. Poor family. That is a rather nasty list of misfortunes.

Blogger Sandi said...

When I was reading your blog I said to myself, "Dang, I hope this isn't all the same person!" Then found out it was. Hopefully just bringing all of this to light will help her. It's very sad to know what some people go through on a daily basis. How fortunate you are to be in a position to help.

Blogger Susie said...

william, sometimes that does help us see more clearly.

dawn, I hope so, too. Actually, the presenter offered to hook her up with a local therapist who is very well-respected.

she, here's to dealing.

squirl, that really was very generous of her. And courageous.

nina, you are a wise woman and a good wife. Your comment also reminds me that troubles really can't be compared to one another in any meaningful way. What hurts, hurts; what worries, worries. We all have our stuff.

elizabeth, yep, on steroids. That's a good one.

sassy, ck, kranki, I KNOW. Just kinda gobsmacked as I listened to her story.

sandi, I sat there hoping the same thing -- that somehow her revealing it was helping, at least in some small way.


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