Monday, June 21, 2010

What would my mother have wanted to hear?

Today I did an intake on a juvenile client. I think I've blogged before about how annoying I find "young adult" clients. If I haven't, now hear this: I find "young adult" clients infuriating. They're flaky. They're oppositional. They don't attend their appointments. They can't put down their cell phones. They're loud; they congregate and conversate in the reception area. They're teenagers. I didn't like the other teenagers when I was in high school, and now that I'm an adult, I don't think I should be forced to deal with any.

Obviously the agency disagrees. So occasionally I have to cover a "young adult" group, which is bearable because I don't take it or myself too seriously -- I don't try to convey any serious psychoeducation material, and I just let them talk. They like that. And sometimes I'm assigned individual clients who are, as I affectionately put it, "old children." Usually that means they're chronologically between 18-21 years old and mentally about 14.

But today I got an actual teenager, a minor accompanied by her mother, who had to sign all the confidentiality paperwork and releases of information and tell me about the insurance coverage. Mom sat rigidly, reading and signing form after form. Then I walked Mom to the waiting area so I could ask the client a few more questions and set up her psychiatric evaluation.

This teenager was quiet and cooperative. A little hard to read, but so far not obnoxious or recalcitrant, which is a huge improvement over most of the other Old Children at the agency. I asked her how she feels about being in treatment; she said she thinks she needs help. Which is extremely insightful for an Old Child. Most of them think they're already perfect and we should leave them be.

As I collected her urine and walked her back to her mother, waiting stiffly in the reception area, I was reminded of a similar situation, ten years ago. Sitting in the admission area of the emergency room, waiting for a bed to open up on the psych ward. And how my mother came to my individual counseling sessions, asking the case manager and the psychiatrist many questions, and hurting, and being strong for me. I tried to think of something to say that would comfort her, something my mother would have liked or needed to hear.

At the door, I said, "Don't work, Ms. Jackson. We'll take good care of her." And Ms. Jackson smiled.

I trembled a little, walking back to my office. This teenager has the same unfortunate hairdo I rocked in high school -- dark, short and feathered. But unlike me, she's already spent time on the psych ward.

I hope, by the time she's my age or thereafter, she won't have made any return visits.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

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