Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Joy of Being a Counseling Psychologist

Ruel (not his real name) is a 12 year old boy who was referred to me for therapy a few months ago. He is quiet, shy, and slow to warm up kid. When you ask him a question, he answers by saying one or two words or by moving his shoulders up and down, then, he continues with whatever he is doing.

Unlike my other clients who are willing to tell stories about themselves, Ruel is very private. Thus, one of my biggest hurdle with Ruel is to build rapport and trust between me and him.

There were sessions we did play and expressive arts therapy. But, I think I hit a jackpot in rapport building when he taught me how to make a crane and a tulip origami.

That afternoon, I took some scratch papers and coloring pens and I asked him to draw. But, he did not finish his drawing, instead, he started folding the papers. At first, I was just quiet and I observed (hoping that I can get a glimpse of his personality). But as soon as I realized he was making a paper crane, right there and then, I asked him to teach me.

And gladly, he did. Step by step, I followed the way he folded the paper. Sometimes, I asked him to slow down and I also questioned the steps if I was confused.
I was an excited student because I was dying to learn how to make a paper crane since I saw Prison Break. =) But in the end, I learned to make a paper crane and a tulip!

You see, Ruel was referred to me for specific reasons. And sometimes, it is frustrating because, at that time, we were faaaar from discussing what he was referred to me for.

I do make plans before I meet up with him, but, these plans are usually not followed. There are times that when he goes inside the room, I just allow him to do what he wants to do. Sometimes, I feel embarrassed to the supporting organization because I think I might not be able to give a concrete behavioral report of his progress.

But, if you read my therapy progress reports, I have a good sense of his phenomenology, I have hypotheses for it, and I have recommendations too. But you see, sometimes, we want results right away, and results mean changes in behavior/s Ruel was referred too.

There was one session before we were about to break for Christmas. With papers and pen in front of him, Ruel started writing letters. And I consider this as a breakthrough!

Letters are perfect data of what is happening in his phenomenology! Plus, I was so happy as he opened himself through these short letters.

I was feeling creative too that I asked him a favor. I asked him to write another letter. This time, the letter should be addressed to me. I told him that I will also write a letter addressed to him. My hidden agenda for that moment was to fish for his ideas of me and these therapy sessions.

When we were both finished writing our letters. I read aloud my letter to him.

Dear Ruel,
I really really want to know you more. And part of it is for you to tell me stories about yourself. But do not to be afraid to tell your stories to me. Only tell what you are comfortable in sharing. But always remember that I will be here for you whatever these stories are.

Also, our next meeting will be a month from now since I will go home to Cebu for the holidays. Be good when I am away. Merry Christmas and a happy new year, Ruel.

Ruel was to shy to read aloud his letter to me. So I read it quietly. I am editing some parts for confidentiality but one line in his letter paid off my long travels from Philcoa, Quezon City to La Paz, Makati City every Tuesday:

Dear Nil…

…marami salamat sa sayo dahil ako ay nag iba para sayo.

Ruel (and he drew two faces, one he labeled as me and the other him.)
I was so surprised! Whoah, wait?!?! What did I do? I thought I might not have done anything concrete, but somehow my presence affected him. If I did not see Ruel writing the whole note in front of me, I would have thought someone else had written it.

Carl Rogers would have been so proud of me and I am happy and proud of myself too. =) This is the reward of what I do. This is the joy of being a counseling psychologist.