Case stories – Case Study 1

“When you’re working in this field, you need to balance between having your emotions impact on the sessions versus staying congruent and real. When I first started doing this work I really empathise when things started getting very tough for a client. My own story should show up as classic countertransference. I call this “The girl who cried wolf!”

In the beginning I work in a residential setting with adolescents male youth, some that were my comfort level was. But when we started doing outpatient work, lo and behold, the first client brought a group of six adolescence girls out to the farm. Never the least, I felt confident. I was the father of my own daughters, after all.

In our first session the girls came out, we checked in, and got to work. Things went well, and all recall that at one point my miniature horse, twister, got close to one girl who started crying. But we went through this session, And afterwards I was feeling pretty good, I thought it had gone well.

But my MH partner thought otherwise. “Mark what was going on with you?”

I said, what do you mean?

She said, well when the girl started crying, you moved away from me and actually stood in between her and twister. What was up with that?”

I countered, you are out of your mind. That did not happen. In my mind I wasn’t aware of how much things will of moving closer.

So we kind of argued and she said, you moved and I was in total denial no I didn’t.

The second session the girl came in with the group again. She barely got through the gate before she started welling of course, twister, miniature nuisance, Went bellowing towards her and rubbed up against her causing even more tears.

All of a sudden, I felt an intense pain running down my arm. I turned around to find my partner holding my skin on my arm and twisting the heck out of it. I then further realise I was standing right between the kind girl, with my arm about to go around her shoulder as the MH twisted my arm even further, I took in the whole picture. I had indeed Moved away from my partner again.

At that point, I moved from pre-awareness into awareness I thought exactly what I was doing, although I still didn’t know why I was doing it. Through the pain I owned, “yes, I move closer to the client. I was going to hug this young lady. With that my partner said, well Mark think about what’s going on for you. I went home that day to find my mum and my two adult nieces in a pretty heated conversation with some yelling going on. I mediately jumped in. Okay everybody, to your corners! What’s going on? I don’t ride in, divided, and conquered until I got things straightened out. At night, at 3 o’clock in the morning, it hit me. I said straight up in bed in a flash of insight and then picked up the phone and called my therapist partner. I got it I know what it is I said she said by now what are you going to do with it and hung up the phone. I live on the farm with my extended family………

So the next time we met, I understood this dynamic more and we sorted it out. My therapist partner asked Mark how did you know the difference when your daughter needs you to move in and make everything okay, and when you need to back off and let her cry it out and figure things out for herself?

I said that’s easy-Mark when she tries to get her way after I’m settling on something.

She said, next time in session really look and watch and think about the difference between when your daughter need you to move in and take care of her and when she doesn’t. I’m going to follow your lead on this if you want to move closer, we are going to move closer together. If you want to move back, will move back. As we started up the session she said, don’t forget to look at the big picture. As the girl and the arena my partner pulled out a double-ended metal snap. She snapped one into her belt loop and the other two mine so we were hooked together. Sure enough, the girl barely got through the gate, and the water works started as soon as twister made a beeline for some little girl. All of a sudden, I felt a tug I was already moving forward! And instantly I move from pre-awareness to awareness to understanding I was feeling the internal you to move forward as soon as I felt that tug, I move back. And when I move that, I happened to look at the bigger picture. I had five other horses in the arena, two of which I know a very tuned into clients emotions especially when the clients are struggling or expressing a authentic emotions. Both of these horses have their butts turned to wards the scale and work as far away from her as they could get well she was crying and wailing the way, happy then all the other horses were far away. I looked at the situation and whispered to my partner, let’s back off a little bit. As soon as we were back up, the girl looked up stopped the water works, and then put her head down and wild even louder. So then we moved even farther away, to the very end of the arena. The girl repeated the pattern about four times and then finally move to a little closer, put her hands on her hips and said “what the heck ‘s is wrong with you today?”.

I only said “you’re good. You’ve got me.”

At that point, she winked at me and never once cried in the session again.

The client’s modus operandi What is playing the role of ‘pitiful me’ in this situations. Her mum had passed away two years earlier. At home, she stepped right up and was very involved, helping her younger siblings. But school was a different story. She had her teachers convention she wasn’t handling her grief well. They started letting her take all of her lunches into the teachers lounge. They brought her food from take-out and let her watch soap operas. They were completely snowed. She was now in your group because her father had heard the stories from her teachers and wanted to get to the bottom of things.

Over time, The girl realise she didn’t want to keep the lies going and asked us how she could redo everything at school so that she was acting more like the way she wasn’t home. So we started seeing her in Individual outpatient sessions, and eventually she brought two of those teachers in. We asked her how she wanted to explain what was going on, and she separated the rain into home and school. Then she did charades with the horses, acting out how she was at home versus house she was at school and what she got out of it. At the end of the session, there were two upset teachers, as they realise what had happened. It turned out her mother had been really involved in the school, volunteering and coaching. So the teachers knew the mum and were her friends. When she first passed away, the girls homeroom teacher and guidance counsellors noticed how hard it was for her to sit in the lunchroom with people coming up to share condolences, so they invited her to the teachers lounge. Over a two year period, they, conceited for their own grieving by allowing her to manipulate them more and more. It was not that the daughter had not moved through the grief, it was the teachers who had not found closure. This is just one illustration of how my only self-awareness. Have kept this girl stuck in the pattern. Had we not been working in a two-person team, I would not have realise what was going on. When I caught it we were able to unravel the whole story. It was a pivotal learning experience for me I was into problems for people, and this young lady brought it to the forefront. Now a days, before I move closer to clients, I’m set myself first and ask what’s happening for me? Oh my ears getting married, is my stomach turning, I work to be more aware.

Insure the two person model is both professional and practical creating a safer physical and emotional backdrop for clients and in ability to respond in situations including crisis situations and ongoing feedback and balance to the facilitators.

The safety and effectiveness of the EAGALA model – the two person process – Enhances its credibility as an emerging field of you take practice.”