magnanimous (a long word for a long entry)

is the word that came to mind the other night as I was driving home from my last day as an MFT Trainee. Magnanimous describes the God that I love and call my Father ( well as the father I was given for the period of my mortal existence--that is a story for another post--this song is for you dad).

It's been an interesting week, to say the least, but saying good-bye to people--colleagues & clients that I have spent the greater part of 2007 and 2008 getting attached to was so bitter-sweet. I was filled with so much gratitude and I will tell you why. Obviously, because of client confidentiality there will be no identifying information here.

Throughout my traineeship I have had to learn how to hold my tongue, but I have also prayed that I'd be given ways to share the gospel through example and that the people who consult me will feel the love of the Lord through our work. So many times I have thought, if only this person had the gospel in their life to live by, they wouldn't be dealing with these issues, or at least they could find some comfort... well in my final sessions with nearly all of my clients, I was given the gift of opportunity to bear testimony in obscure ways.

Example 1 - 18 yr old female. Mind you this is our last session and we've been working together for about 10 months and have built a pretty great therapeutic alliance at this point.

client: (out of the blue) Where are you from?
me: (trying to avoid the question) I grew up in Arizona.
client: oh really? but where did you move here from?
[This particular client guessed which car in the parking lot was mine based on her idea that she thinks I'm cool and she liked the mini cooper out there, so she HOPED that it was my looked like a car I would drive. BUT, I always park with my front facing out so that my Utah plates are somewhat hidden. My guess is that she peaked at my plates and had been planning this conversation.]
me: Utah
client: Are you Mormon??
me: Yes, but this isn't about me, we're here for you (smiling)
client: (laughing hysterically)
me: this is funny, huh?
She proceeded to tell me about some Mormon neighbors they used to have who were "crazy fun" and I explained that they were not exactly living in accordance to what the church teaches.
client: what do Mormons believe anyway? I've always wanted to know
me: um, ya, I'm not really supposed to talk about this, this is your time. but... (wrote out on a piece of paper) this site can answer your questions.

I said a quick prayer that she would be blessed with curiosity. Keep searching!

Example 2 - Single mom & son. Came in to work on son's anger. (one of those, frazzled mom "will you fix my kid?" stories.

me: (after watching them sit on opposite ends of the couch not talking to each other and hearing them both say that nothing has changed over the last year of counseling. No improvement. My heart is aching and they don't want to transfer to another therapist) Are you sure you're not interested in staying? My recommendation is that you both continue, but with your own individual counselors. Maybe you'll find a better fit and be able to see more progress if you give it another chance.
mom: I guess we could try it, but we cannot do this together anymore (meaning family counseling sessions)
me: (speaking to son) What do you think? Could you give counseling another try, but with your own counselor?
son: (looking down with one earbud in) There's nothing wrong with me. I'm not the problem.
me: I hear you. You're not the problem, but this (meaning the conflict between mother and son) is something that affects you and your life and I think it would be good for you to have someone to talk to.

After they agree to keep coming--thank goodness--we get to the good stuff. I know, right? Why couldn't this conversation have happened 6 months ago? Turns out that mom has been blaming herself for the anger. You know how they say that emotions are transferred from mother to baby during pregnancy? Well, her husband left her for another woman while she was pregnant with this one and raising a toddler--lots of anger and resentment toward the dad throughout her pregnancy. Oh, seeing the pain on her face just killed me.
me: Are you saying that you've been blaming yourself this whole time? That you believe that it's your fault for the anger? (to son) Were you aware of this; did you know that your mom blames herself?
son: (looking up at me for the first time during the session--shakes his head no)
mom: (tears streaming down her face, eyes looking as if she just wanted to die) sobs
me: I know about the studies, the research that has shown that emotion is passed from mother to baby. But I haven't read anything that says it's permanent! or that changes the child's personality or temperament. (not that I've really looked into it to know)
At that point I looked back at her son, checking in with how he was responding to all of this. he's biting his lip.
me: (very hesitantly, but I knew that I had to go there) I know you're Catholic and I don't know everything about what you believe, but tell me this, do you believe in the Atonement?
mom: (looks at me with a furrowed brow, questioning)
me: I mean, that Jesus died for you?
mom: (nodding through her tears)
me: Then if you believe that, He did it! He took care of this for you. You don't have to carry this.

Oh, man. The conversation kept going as I expressed encouragement and hope for them as they continue to work together as a family and on their own individual stuff. I was also very grateful for the chance to tell her son one-on-one that he's a good kid and to not let anyone try to tell him otherwise. It was like my last ditch effort to make up for any slacking on my part.

There were others, but this is obviously long enough. I hope I didn't cross too many boundaries in my last week, but if I did, I think they were meant to be crossed. I am just amazed at the magnanimousness of our Heavenly Father, that He would allow me to be a witness. I mean, not only to bear witness but to physically witness and feel His love for His children everywhere--no matter their circumstances. No, especially in their circumstances.


The Hokanson Family said...

Wow Charity, what cool experiences. You are so wise, and such an amazing therapist. I wish you could write a book about your life, and all the lives you are an instrument in changing. I felt the spirit just by reading this post. thank you.

Kristin said...

Thanks for sharing those stories! It truly touched my heart.