By Lorrie Appleton, LCSW
I am preparing to meet a new therapy client. (Let’s call her Emily). While anticipating our introduction, I scan my office, particularly noting the empty couch and chairs waiting to be occupied. I wonder how many people will be attending the meeting. I scheduled an individual session, however, I suspect the office will soon become inundated.
Emily arrives and we exchange pleasantries. I ask if she has any questions for me. Sometimes clients politely decline the invitation. Others may ask about my credentials, certifications and specialties. We face each other and enter into a verbal dance I like to refer to as the “Acronym Tango,” (IFS, CBT, DBT, EMDR, EFT, cha-cha-cha). I might as well have a rose between my teeth!
But I digress.
Emily and I have initiated initial trust so we move forward to introductions. NO, this is not a typo or error. YES, I introduced myself to the client. I am referring to the people who enter the therapy room while the client describes the presenting problem. I transform from a psychotherapist to a greeter in a receiving line at a wedding.
Here’s the scenario.
Emily is a 41-year-old woman who has been struggling to establish adult boundaries with her parents. Emily has three siblings who have chosen to disengage from their parents, leaving Emily to act as a conduit.
Emily and her ex-husband share two children. Emily’s ex-husband relies on her to help care for his parents who have health needs. Even though Emily is divorced from her first husband, her role as the family caretaker was established and remains ongoing.
Following Emily’s divorce, she married her wife (Deb). Emily has a cordial relationship with Deb’s parents; however, she finds them intrusive.
Get the point? Within minutes, we have 14 people in the room. The office becomes even more populated when we delve into Emily’s inner children!
As a systems therapist, I welcome all attendees to the session, (in person or in absentia). By naming all associated parties, it becomes quite clear why Emily complains about sleeplessness, anxiety, depression, and somatization. Simply put, it may be that her life has become one interpersonal mosh pit.
My job, as her therapist, is to provide crowd control. Who are the stakeholders in Emily’s life and how do they influence her thoughts? How does Emily turn down the volume control from their voices so she can hear her own wants and needs? Can Emily learn to identify who accompanies her thoughts and subconsciously holds her ransom when she becomes triggered?
At the end of the session, Emily’s humor returns. She said she is grateful that I charge by the hour, not per capita.
The question that looms large from my standpoint is: Do I need more office space?
Lorrie R. Appleton, LCSW specializes in couples, family, and individual therapy. As a child, Lorrie aspired to be a comedian. Luckily, she discovered how clinical work and humor are perfect partners to advance problem solving and healing. Lorrie’s post-graduate experiences span over 40 years. Lorrie has practiced in a variety of settings including private practice, non-profit, inpatient psychiatric, military behavioral health, schools, corporations, and human service agencies. You can reach Lorrie at email@example.com
Disclaimer: The National Association of Social Workers invites members to share their expertise and experiences through Member Voices. This blog was prepared by Lorrie R. Appleton in her personal capacity and does not necessarily reflect the view of the National Association of Social Workers.
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Lorrie R. Appleton
in her personal capacity and does not necessarily reflect the view of the National Association of Social Workers.