Monday, 9 January 2012

The awkward moment when you go to work and your therapist turns up there

This wasn't some kind of weird stress dream about being exposed and feeling insecure, like where you go to school and realise you forgot to get dressed that morning, or you're trying to go to the loo but there are no walls on the toilet cubicle... This actually happened.

So I went to this course today for work. I always check out the attendance sheet when I'm signing in, to see if anyone else I know might be coming. There were a few familiar names and I was about to lose interest when I spotted one which seemed a little more familiar than I liked....yes, it was my new psychologist's name! What the flip?! I rushed to a seat and sat there trying to collect my thoughts, panicking. Eventually I plucked up the courage to quickly scan the room but there was no sign of her so I tried to reassure myself that it was probably another person with the same name and I started to relax a little by about half an hour into the session because she wasn't there and by now it was getting too late for it to be possible that she would turn up late. I breathed a sigh of relief and tried to imagine how awkward that would have been. Well, I needn't have bothered...

A while later the lady running the training asked if anyone wanted to share what frustrates us most when dealing with patients and I so I started talking to the group about my experience of patients being defensive... and then right when I was in the middle of my explanation, in walks my therapist, late for the training. I was sitting by the door so was the first person she looked at and I think she was as horrified as me. She shuffled past and took a seat in the back while I nearly died and forgot what I was saying and was like ''errr ummm, yeah that's it...'' and I'm pretty sure I turned beetroot red. The lady running the group then decided to ask me for specific examples of how defensiveness shows and to be honest, I'm not even sure what I said because my brain turned into slosh and all I could think was: "This cannot be happening!"

So anyway, that was awkward enough but then later on we had to do group work. The lady asked if we wanted to work in groups where we were sitting or if we'd like to be divided up. Someone asked if we could be divided up so the trainer proceeded to give each person a number starting on the person sitting at the left: "You're number one, you're two, three, four etc". She came to me: "four" and moved onto the back row. I knew it was going to happen but still couldn't quite believe it when she got to new psychologist and low and behold, what number was she? Yes... fucking 'four'.

This couldn't be happening. I was more horrified to find out that it was a group of three, which turned out to include me, my new psychologist and a frigging psychiatrist!

As if that wasn't weird ENOUGH, the leader then told us that our group work was that one person had to be the 'client' and one the 'therapist' (and the third person an observer) and the client had to talk about something they want to change but the therapist had to deal with it in an unhelpful way by trying to coerce the patient to agree to change instead of being impartial and allowing the patient to contemplate the pros and cons etc. It was seeming like some kind of weird dream by now and I had realised I would just have to get on with it...

I quickly volunteered myself as observer to try to minimise the awkwardness and the psychiatrist asked if she could be the client so she proceeded to talk about something she wanted to change but was ambivalent about. New psychologist then had to be unhelpful by arguing that she should make the change and not considering the cons that the client was expressing etc. It became really obvious to me that new psychologist felt really awkward about intentionally reacting in a bad way, even though it was only a role play setting. Every time she said anything harsh or accusatory to the pretend client she kept getting really flustered and saying things like: "This is awful, I would NEVER say that to a client in a real setting!" I''m guessing she was worried because we've only had the one session and she thought I might think that this was the kind of thing she might say to me! Looking back now, this is all a bit comical and I am laughing at the scenario. I wasn't laughing at the time, I can tell you that!

Naturally, new psychologist couldn't wait to get back to her own seat afterwards. I realised at that point that I would need to say something to her directly about the situation. This is a four day course and we hadn't managed to avoid each other for more than the first hour. She didn't say 'hello' or acknowledge me in any way during the group work and I felt that is probably because it's not her place to do that is it? She can't risk breaking confidentiality so she probably thought it best to say nothing unless I was to speak to her directly. The other thing is, I have dissociative identity disorder and she doesn't know me well yet. She may have been wondering that I might not recognise her, being in a different setting so she might not have wanted to say anything for that reason also.

So during the lunch break I bumped into her in the cafeteria. She was about to just walk past but I stopped her and said hello. I didn't really know what to say then and realised I hadn't thought it through very well. What I came up with was: "I didn't expect to see you here!" (always good to clarify to your therapist that you're not stalking them if you meet them outside of a session). There was a bit of mumbling and awkwardness and then she drew close to me and quietly said that she was happy to see me here but had just spoken to the group leader to ask if the groups could be divided differently for subsequent group work "just in case there would be anything more, you know...". She said she hadn't mentioned any names. I thanked her and said that it was a bit awkward and she tried to reassure me that it was OK for a moment and then we changed the subject to that of lunch matters. I made an excuse that I didn't fancy the lunch options here and was going to go out to the shop and made my way out the door as fast as my little legs would carry me.

I didn't do very well at concentrating on anything much the whole day. I was really just wanting to pick up my bag at every moment and run out the door. I considered leaving and just telling my manager back at work that I couldn't do it because my psychologist was there. I knew she'd understand. But I didn't want to let it stop me. I've been waiting to go on this course for months and I decided I'd just have to 'man up' and get on with it.

I was so glad to get out of there at the end of the day though! Unfortunately, tomorrow I have to go back and do the same thing all over again. It shouldn't be so bad this time, as long as no one decides to move seats and I end up sitting right near her. :S It was like some kind of weird dream. I have always known there is a risk of my therapists becoming my colleagues as we all work in the NHS which is THE health care provider. So we can be on courses together or suchlike. I just never envisaged it happening in such a way that I would end up having to role play a therapist/client interaction in a group of three with my therapist and a flippin psychiatrist!

My nerves are in shreds.


Pandora said...

Christ on a stick, what a nightmare! I cringed for you as I read this so can only imagine just how awkward it must have been in person :-/

You're braver than I'd have been - I would have run like the hammers from hell at the first available opportunity and would have proceeded to have a total breakdown. But then. I am a bit histrionic.

In any event, kudos for taking the mature approach - and really good luck for the next few days (not to mention your next session!).

Take care

Pan x

Ellen said...

You seem to be doing really well with a very awkward situation Candy!

Candycan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Candycan said...

Ha ha! I keep thinking about how absurd it is and laughing out loud. Pan, I think all of that happened inside my head while I was sitting there like a cool cucumber. LOL.
Unfortunately the course is two days this week then another two days at the end of the month so it's not even like it'll be over soon!
Ellen, I didn't feel like I coped well. I was sweating so profusely I had to go and buy deodorant!

Ruth said...

Candy I am so proud of you for staying. That is so awesome and I agree awkward. Another way to look at it, is that both of you will see each other from another perspective. Twice, I have encountered my therapist some place other than their offices, it is awkward. One of the times I was at a fair eating a gooey dessert. I was then introduced to his family. My head was spinning. When my mind settled down, I realized that it actually improved how I worked with him. Just another story.

JustEliza said...

OMG, Candy. :O

You handled it well. I think I might have fainted, having to play a client or a therapist with my therapist without anyone knowing we are actually client/therapist!! Talk about dissociative enforcers!

I hope the rest of the training goes smoothly and you hardly notice she's there.

Candycan said...

Thanks Ruth! That's interesting that meeting your therapist outside of session improved how you worked with him. It was definitely easier today.

Eliza, it is kind of hilarious really isn't it! It's like something out of a comedy show.

CimmerianInk said...

Oh my god! I've had this terror of seeing my therapist at a grocery store or something so I don't know how you manged to be so calm and together (at least on the outside). Good for you for sticking it out because it's something you've been wanting to do.