This is the fourth and final piece on Peter. The previous three chapters are below. Enjoy, and thank you!
Spending a large amount of time with anyone leads to a relationship and a bond. It’s unavoidable to become attached to our clients; although we are expected to maintain a boundary (if we don’t, the client may have a difficult time working with another clinician). Peter and myself developed a good rhythm: resistance, frustration, resistance, progress. We knew each other well. We had been meeting nine to ten hours a week, for six months.
Our sessions involved various patterns. We’d sometimes go to the YMCA where he could get some exercise and I would convince him to shower. Sometimes CiCi’s, where he’d get rewarded for his efforts with colossal amounts of pizza. Other times, we’d meet with his payee, where he was confronted for spending his money on pot, beer or whatever. We’d go grocery shopping to argue about buying other things besides noodles. We’d go to meet his Probation Officer, who just shook his head every single time; sometimes in disbelief and sometimes in frustration. Good effort to make some progress. I enjoyed our work. Regardless of how infuriating (very) he could be at times (a lot).
I was informed, six months in, that I would be transferring.
When discussing a change in services with a client, it’s important to be delicate. I was very nervous to approach the subject with Peter, because on several occasions, he had mentioned feeling abandoned by previous clinicians. I knew his reaction would be a difficult one; he would be hurt. The conversation needed to take place at least a couple of weeks before our final session. I took him to get lunch. I told him I was being transferred.
“I don’t give a shit” he responded.
I was surprised, “You sure? We can talk about it. We should talk about it.”
He looked at me defiantly “No, it’s fine.”
I took him at his word (a mistake) and we finished the session. The next two weeks, our meetings weren’t consistent. Finally, I was able to track him down, hoping to have one last session before my transfer. He wanted to go to the YMCA. We did. On our way back to his house he barely spoke. I pulled up to drop him off. He wouldn’t talk, he just kept looking down. Finally, he looked at me. He was crying.
I was surprised. But now realized his response two weeks before was another defense mechanism. I asked him about what he was thinking.
“I really liked going to YMCA and CiCi’s” he said.
“Me too buddy.”