Dispatch No. 1

Smells, Confidence, and Succulents

I have a break between clients at the moment and I’ve got my window open as far as it can go. I figured out last fall that it’s important to open the top part of my window, rather than the bottom part, so the stacks of papers who live on my desk do not go flying. I’m airing out my office, because when you work with the public in a small 10’x14’ office, you can really accumulate some different smells.

None of my clients at the moment smell unbearable, but I’ve had some in the past who have come close. One session, with a particularly ripe smelling young man, I caught his scent as soon as I entered the waiting room and, being quick on my toes that day, opted to save myself and my future clients by meeting with him in the basement where we have a larger multipurpose meeting room. But my efforts weren’t quite enough, and despite the room upgrade, I found myself breathing from my mouth the whole session, and wrapping up ahead of the hour.

Things have been slow this summer, but they are picking up as clients settle into a routine surrounding the school year, and as overwhelmed teachers and schools make referrals for every kid they feel has ADHD. I get terribly frustrated when things are slow. I don’t get frustrated with my clients, though some clinicians do, and I really work to not look for or place too much stock in absurd, random reasons that therapists tell themselves when clients don’t show for appointments. “It’s the weather,” is the most common one thrown around by therapists on nice days and rainy days and blizzard days and every other kind of day. I tend to get frustrated when things are slow mostly because of my suffering productivity expectation, but also because it means that I no longer have a valid excuse for neglecting paperwork such as transfers, discharges, correspondence to be sent out or documented, and a thousand other pieces of minutiae which one would never think about otherwise.

I’m feeling positive on the whole though. I’ve been feeling more comfortable in my role recently. Mostly it comes from being reassured that what I’m doing with clients is actually therapy and is actually helping. I don’t want this to become a requisite for me feeling good about my work, but it does feel excellent to have someone say that I have helped them. I don’t mean that in a “look at me, doing such great work,” sort of way. It’s simply a reflection of the fact that as a therapist who works primarily with people who have a difficult time communicating how they feel and what they mean, and the fact that I work in a silo, with little supervision or collaborators with any real knowledge of what I do, chances for feedback can be few and far between. And perhaps my clients are paying me lip service, but I’m not going to read too much into it and just take the boost to my esteem as it is.

I got a succulent from my cousin-in-law recently, and while it’s been sprucing up my office, it’s also losing leaves on one of the shoots. I have damn near no idea how often it needs watered, so my goal is to just keep the leaves turgid and on the stem. I think I was under watering it, as it was losing leaves at a fast clip and they were looking shriveled. Now they look bloated and ready to burst. Like all areas of life I suppose moderation is key; for plants and humans it comes down to dialing it in.