Sunday, January 4, 2009

Of Vacations and Interpretations

It's Sunday evening, and tomorrow I go back to work. I'm always a bit nervous about how sessions will go after I take a vacation. Since my clients don't use speech to communicate, it's always a bit of a challenge to figure out whether or not there are any possible abandonment issues (which usually seem to present as anger- which, for my clients, generally appears in the form of being just plain difficult) which may have emerged during my time away from work (or, perhaps, as a result of my reappearance). 

I've found it's a delicate process- trying to interpret my clients' actions and reactions during the session or two following my absences.  In case you're wondering, I do prepare my clients for any expected vacations, holidays, changes, etc. I figure I'll give them the details, and they'll understand what they understand. The reason it's so "delicate"  though is that I'm never sure whether I'm misinterpreting someone's actions as distress with regard to the therapy relationship when it could be something else entirely.  

As an example, one of my clients may be a bit "off" when I get back after having been on break There are, of course, a whole lot of interpretations that I could be making with regard to his seemingly "off" behavior.  He could be experiencing any number of sensory or physical distresses, or he could be depressed from the holidays, he may have had a visit from family members (or not), his staff may have frustrated him, his housemates may have been invasive in some way, he may simply be trying to get back in the swing of things after having his schedule interrupted by a lot of his staff being on vacation.  Or any other number of things that I could never guess, because they're internal, and he can't tell me them (or, if he could, he may not choose to do so).  Or, I suppose, he may have felt sad that his weekly bit of connection with me was missing.  Or it could be various combinations of the whole lot. 

Often it's the "being just plain difficult" business that starts to make me wonder (out loud- sometimes musically- to my clients) whether they might be doing the opposite of what I'm hoping because, perhaps, I did the opposite of what they were hoping.  In other words, I wasn't there for them when they needed me. 

Oddly enough (or maybe it's not so odd), the other thing that sometimes happens after I return from a holiday is a client trying to run out of the session.  I have gotten to the point where I almost automatically ask if maybe they're trying to say, "How dare you run out on me, Roia!? See how you like it...damn it!"

Imagine the frustration and embarrassment on both our parts when it turns out that the rush to the door ends up being a need to go down the hall to use the toilet, and I miss the cue entirely.  Not that the folks I work with don't make good use of toileting accidents to let me know they're "pissed". 

So, um, as I said, I'm a little nervous about tomorrow, particularly because I have a number of new clients whose "languages" I've yet to learn.  I'm supposing that I'll be getting the opportunity to do just that during the coming week.

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