I had the unusual experience of watching a single session with the client three years after we had met. At that time there was the possibility of her child being removed from her care and she also suffered from very significant PSTD. Sixteen minutes into watching the session she nudged me and said, “That’s when my daughter got her mother back” and twenty minutes further on she nudged me again and said, “That’s when the past left me”. These were significant changes confirmed by a very dramatic improvement in all aspects of her extended family life. As the recording came to an end the client said, “I could hardly recognise myself at the beginning of that session but by the end I could see the beginning of the woman I have become”.
My friends and colleagues, Elliott Connie and Adam Froerer (look them up on You Tube), talk about the client being a “different person” after an SF session and my client’s experience seems to support this view. But was she? She certainly felt very differently, thought differently and behaved differently but was she a different person? I like to think not.
When, towards the end of this session, she thought about how much of her hoped-for future was already happening she was surprised by her answer; “A lot of it is happening – I never really thought about it before!” This would support a view that whatever happens tomorrow has a history and every apparent change was already in the making before it ‘happened’. All our conversation do is bring that history into the light.
My client might have been seen as struggling towards a future shrouded by mist and with dangerous and dead-end paths which somehow, she managed to negotiate. With no view of the way forward only the slips and setbacks are noted and together these notes create a history of failure. Even the determination and fortitude to keep going becomes part of the story of failure but still she does not give up.
When a few simple questions not only light up her future but show also her astonishing journey why would we want to see her as a different person – her history is a marvel and a perfect fit for a future that led, against the odds, to happiness.
If we want to honour our clients’ lives let us pay attention to the continuity of those lives. Celebrate changes of fortune, of thinking, feeling and doing but remember it is the same person who now happens to be walking in the light.
The single session with this client is described with transcripts in:
Iveson. C., George, E., Ratner, H. (2014) Love is all around In Hoyt, M., Talmon, M. (eds.) Capturing the moment: Single Session Therapy and Walk in Service. Crown House: Bethel.
28th March 2021