White 1 Brittany White – SOWJ 3300 Analysis of Client Interaction: Creative Writing Group Therapy Workshop Repairers of the

Breach Brittany: [Clients‟ name], how are you? I haven‟t seen you in a while. Recognizing this client in the hallway before I began my class certainly caught me by surprise. While greeting her was appropriate in this circumstance, I think I was so focused on trying to remember to introduce myself and clarify my purpose and role that once this encounter occurred, I was caught off guard and eventually failed to introduce myself and clarify my purpose and role until much later in our interaction. Client: I‟m doing okay. It‟s good to see you! Her use of the word “okay” seems to be a nondescript emotional “feeler” word. That is, even though I knew the client prior to this interaction, she still felt the need to test me. Brittany: Let‟s head back to the back I wanted to delve into this interaction in a discussion room, I am leading a writing meaningful way, but I knew that having a workshop back there. focused, personal discussion would not be **walking back to the discussion room** possible in the context of the loud, crowded hallway leading into the classroom. This is evidence of my tuning-process and my preparedness to consider the context in which the interaction takes place as a factor influencing its effectiveness. Client: Okay, but yeah, I‟m doing okay. I am Again, her use of the word okay is a test of my here today so that Danielle, after she gets off of ability to reach into her feelings and where she her job, and I can go and cash her check and is doing. But, she responds to my see about getting a new apartment. consideration of the context, by opening up in a small way and sharing with me the reasons for which she is at Repairers today. **sit down at the discussion table (Client to my right, both sitting at the same level, making eye contact)** My decision to make eye contact with the client and to sit at the same level was part of my efforts to increase my rapport with the client and to build trust with her. I wanted her to see that I cared about her and why she was here. She responds to this demonstration of care by sharing an increased amount of information with me. However, as she is sharing this information, her smiling face and encouraging demeanor seemed disconnected from the

You see, I have been living with Danielle and her boyfriend for the past few days since my boyfriend kicked me out. There‟s this temporary apartment that we want to get until my low-income housing kicks in. I am so glad

White 2 I can stay in your creative writing class since Danielle won‟t be here until 10:30. content of the information she was sharing with me. This discrepancy and inconsistency is a signal that a confrontation is needed to verbalize this inconsistency to the client. I did not verbalize this inconsistency; therefore, I did not complete the necessary confrontation of the client as a means of reaching for her feedback and her feelings regarding this information. Instead, I tried to help her see the situation in a new way and reframe her perspective on being kicked out of her boyfriend‟s house by discussing the positive, strengthening reality that she has a place to stay, which was once a need, but now is fulfilled. She is resistant to this reframe. And, since she does not respond directly to my questioning, perhaps I confused her. This language, specifically her use of the words “I guess,” and her fidgeting mannerisms as she sat in front of me suggest that this is not only difficult to talk about, but that there is something hidden much more deeply for which I need to reach. This bits and pieces of information she is sharing with me is very anecdotal and vague – signs she is using indirect communication. Using the word “complex” was part of my attempt to articulate the client‟s feelings back to her and reach for them, but as I look back now, I know that I should have been more specific and actually used emotional words. Similarly, though my questions are another attempt to reach for her feelings, I think I may have overwhelmed her with the use of so many questions. The client is continuing to elaborate on her story. As she was talking, I found myself trying to remember the importance of containment. Still, I felt that this comment necessitated a response that would continue to

Brittany: Oh wow. At least you‟ve been able to find a place to stay, which is what you needed. Have you been feeling okay there?

Client: Well, yeah, I guess. I mean they are living with his mom and she doesn‟t really want them staying there. So, at night we sneak into the little apartment in their attic and have been staying there. I guess his mom knows I am there though because Danielle told me this morning that while I was sitting outside on the steps reading and waiting for Danielle to be ready for work, her mom stopped her and asked if „that girl‟ was still here. She calls me „that girl.‟

Brittany: That sounds like a complex situation. How do you feel about it?

Have you talked to Danielle about how her mom feels about the situation?

Client: Well, I mean, I just think that she would have introduced me to her by name, you know?

White 3 reach for her feelings. Brittany: Yeah, it probably feels frustrating not to have even your name be respected? I was hoping to articulate some of the hidden feelings that she was conveying indirectly by using the word “frustrating.” I used a tentative voice to encourage her to share her story, but I wanted her to know that I was supporting her in what was an evidently difficult conversation. This sharing of what is an obviously taboo subject is essential as it demonstrates the rapport, caring, and trust that exists in our working relationship and proves she has made the first decision to engage with me in the work. It is essential that I respond directly to this taboo subject so as to demonstrate my willingness to discuss these difficult topics openly. I immediately focused on the client‟s sense of urgency regarding this experience. Yes, I was at service learning to teach a writing workshop, but I was not going to bypass the sharing of this important information. These statements demonstrate my validating the client‟s feelings and my efforts to reach inside of her silence. I wanted to show my empathy by addressing the difficulty and painfulness of this experience; that is, these statements are a demonstration of my understanding of the client‟s feelings and my ability to put the client‟s feelings into words. Client: So painful, but yeah, I am fine now. It was about two weeks ago. I was in the shower when it happened. He had been wagging his finger at me and he was trying to poke me, but he tried to poke me in the eye and I told him to stop. That‟s when he kept doing it and blindsided me, hitting me across the face and chipping my tooth. I didn‟t even see it coming. Brittany: I am so sorry. No one should have to This use of the word “painful” validates my choice of painful as a description of her feelings, suggesting that I responded directly and openly to her uncertainty and discomfort regarding this taboo issue. Because of my responsiveness to this taboo subject, the client continues to share her story with me, elaborating on it because of her knowledge that I am listening and am empathetic. Again, this is a demonstration of my empathy.

Client: Well, the only reason I am living with them is that my boyfriend kicked me out after he blindsided me and chipped my tooth. **silence**

Brittany: I am so sorry he hurt you. What a painful experience that must have been. Are you okay?

White 4 go through anything like that, you need better than that. You certainly had strength in telling him to stop. Have you told anyone else about your experience? I also tried to employ a strengths-based perspective, highlighting what she has done well in addressing this situation. Similarly, I used a reframing technique here by trying to help her see this problem as a need, rather than as a problem she caused. The question I ended with was part of my effort to move from the general to the specific and to encourage her to continue speaking. At this point in the conversation, I remember feeling hesitant about how I should address my feelings that this experience was evidence of abuse and domestic violence. However, I chose not to identify the action as abuse because I did not want to discourage the client from sharing more information with me. And, given that she did not seem to be in imminent danger because she was no longer living with her boyfriend, I chose to focus on continuing the conversation in a different direction. These statements suggest more than the taboo nature of this subject; they are also a form of indirect communication from the client about the highly traumatizing and difficult nature of this abuse. Her use of the phrase “I guess” seems to convey the client‟s underlying ambivalence regarding this experience and addressing it. Her discussion of the positive perspective she has on this experience further indicates possible underlying ambivalence. These are important strengths that I need to be attentive to and articulate to her. Given the difficulty of this conversation, I understood the client‟s willingness to engage in the difficulty with such effort and such openness to be evidence of her making the second decision. Brittany: Your perspective on an experience like this is so powerful. To be so focused on the positive in a situation that was clearly painful and abusive is amazing. I tried to put her feelings into words again here, focusing on her strengths. By using the word abuse here, I was again

Client: I mean, I didn‟t report it or press charges or anything. I guess I probably should have.

I am just thankful that I have Danielle to live with for now and I have been praying to God, thanking him every night for each of the blessings I do have. I hope and pray that the temporary apartment works for us today. It is our plan to move up and out of this place.

White 5 offering a handle for work and demonstrating my willingness to be open and trustworthy in the discussion of taboo subjects. Client: And, once this housing works out, I The client continues to elaborate on her story, will be able to go back to the King Center to revealing the solid foundation of the working check their GED classes. I love the teacher at relationship and the rapport, trust, and caring the King Center. He focuses on math, and math that exists in it. is really hard for me. I am dyslexic and math and numbers are difficult to figure out. But, The effort she is making and the responsibility the teacher there knows how to teach dyslexic to work on these difficult situations with such a individuals. He can help me. The people at the positive perspective again seems to evidence King Center tell me that I am brilliant. I mean, her having made the second decision. I always thought I was smart, but no one except those teachers has told me that I am brilliant. Brittany: It sounds like you have a solid group of support to help you maintain that positive attitude. This statement was part of my effort to be empathetic and to employ a strengths-based perspective. I was rephrasing what I heard in her comments as a means of encouraging her to elaborate on her story. She seemed to be sharing a lot of information with me, and I remember wondering if this was an evidence that we were facing the challenge of the illusion of work. However, the positive energy she was exuding, the tone of voice she was using, and the smile she was sharing seemed to suggest the authenticity of her work. Brittany: That‟s amazing. I can hear the determination in your voice. Client: Yeah, I know what I want – I want to be able to be there for my son. He has been living with his aunt and uncle since he was three and though I still have sole custody of him. They have legal guardianship. He goes to St. John‟s and he‟s thirteen and he is so smart. He wants to go the Wisco (Wisconsin Lutheran) for high school, but I can‟t pay for it. I was going to send him to West or Hale since I wouldn‟t have to pay for it, but if his aunt and uncle have legal guardianship they can pay for With the use of the word “determination,” I tried to validate her feelings and her efforts by putting her feelings into words. She responds directly to my articulation of her feelings back to her and my validation of those feelings. Though she does not use the word choice that I used, she conveys the same concept and thus feels comfortable continuing to share this story with me. Importantly, the client does not simply focus on the positive elements of her circumstances now and is more open and direct about the struggles she is facing and the areas of work

Client: Well, the thing is, after I get my GED, I can get a job. I mean I would love for my disability to finally kick in, but if it doesn‟t at least I have a plan for where I can go.

White 6 it. I know that he is more stable with them, but I still want to be there for him. I pray every night and day that he continues to embrace what he loves. Brittany: Wow, I am amazed by you. I feel so inspired by your ability to see the positive and to set these concrete goals for yourself. I wish I had more to say to support you in this, besides recognizing what an incredibly difficult situation you have experienced and the amazing way you handled it. that still require her direct attention.

I made the decision to share my feelings openly here to provide her with support and validation. I was tuned into the meaning of her struggles, but I wanted to help her see the problem and life in new ways by focusing on her strengths. I also transitioned back to a subtle discussion and acknowledgment of the authority theme. I wanted the client to know that she was the expert in this situation. She continues to elaborate on her story because of my response to the authority theme.

Client: I just give everything to God. That‟s what I have done for the past 34 years. I have had faith for the past 34 years and I am going to keep having that faith for as long as I live. Rejoice in the day of the Lord. That‟s what‟s kept me going. That and my writing and poetry. That‟s why I love this creative writing class. Brittany: Well, I am glad we can dive into some writing together today. It looks like someone else is joining us for our class. Hi there, how are you?

I began to transition into my role as instructor of the writing workshop. I was now ready to move on to the instrument of my work with the clients, but I was glad that I had not been distracted by the initial, theoretical purpose for my visit to Repairers of the Breach that I bypassed this important interaction and work with the client. I chose to start the writing workshop as a direct response to her indirect communication that writing is freeing form of work that enables her to move forward from this difficult situation. It was part of my effort to make the connection between the process and content of our work. I needed to address the distraction that was interrupting our work, so I decided to acknowledge it. The use of the word “fine” is an indirect communication. However, because I was so

Secondary Client: I am fine. Are we doing art therapy in here?

White 7 focused on the initial client with whom I was working, I do not think that I responded properly to this secondary client who entered my class. Brittany: No, I am sorry. I meant to take that sign down. We are having a creative writing workshop instead. I will grab that sign now back and be right. **Goes and grabs sign** Brittany: Well, I guess I should introduce myself and the class now and give us a chance to get started. Hello, everyone. My name is Brittany and I am a service learning student at Marquette. This writing workshop will be a free-flowing, creative space where we can practice different writing styles as a way to tell our stories. Is that what you were expecting? Client: Well, I remember having a good time last year in whatever class you taught. I always liked knowing I could share my stories. Secondary Client: Yeah that sounds good. He presented an indirect communication and I responded directly, both verbally and nonverbally by removing the sign.

Since a new client entered our interaction, I decided to return to the contracting phase and formally introduce myself, clarifying my role and purpose in the process. I did try to reach for client feedback by asking this question. The amount of talking I did in this part of the interaction is a bit problematic, though, and may have confused the clients. These statements are signs of the working relationship we have already been developing and our rapport.

Resistant to my efforts to contract with him. Ambivalence is clearly in play. Brittany: So, we are going to do a Though I am the writing workshop instructor brainstorming activity for our first writing and am expected to have an agenda and lesson project. We‟ll pick a letter and then try to come plan for my class, I should have been more up with all the words we can that start with that attentive to ways in which I could empower the letter and then we‟ll use those words to write a clients to structure the functioning of the class. story. Was there a letter either of you wanted to pick? Still, I did try to empower the clients in a small way by asking if they want to choose the letter we would use in the brainstorming activity. **Chose the letter “R.” Completed activity/shared stories.** Secondary Client: Well, thanks for letting me try this activity! I have to go, but I will be back next time! Though this second client may have made the decision to participate in this short activity in my writing class, there is no evidence he ever made the first decision to engage with me. Still, we must have begun to develop some rapport because he agrees to return to my writing class in a future session.

White 8 Brittany: Okay, great, thanks! Client: Bye! Very abrupt sessional ending with this secondary client. Perhaps this interaction **Secondary Client leaves** reveals my need to increase my skills in sessional ending. Client: I really am enjoying this. I‟ve always These statements validate our working had a creative sense. Writing has helped me get relationship; the client continues to elaborate through so much. I used to have a stack of on her story. post-it notes by my bed so that at night I could write down all the thoughts that popped into my head. I wrote a poem for my son like that once. It was called “Daniel‟s Tears.” Brittany: Oh, that‟s wonderful. Do you remember any of it? I used focused questioning to help her move from the general to the specific. I wanted to support her and respond directly to her in what I thought was a difficult subject to discuss, especially given her tentative tone of voice. It might have been more effective for me to frame this question differently, in a more open manner. I was trying to practice containment simultaneously and I think my focus on using the skills actually inhibited my ability to employ them. And as a result, I may have made the mistake of trying to direct the conversation in a new way before I really understood the meaning of her struggle to share this information with me. Client: Well, I don‟t remember exactly how it goes, but I remember writing that he didn‟t cry or that he couldn‟t have tears because I cried all of his tears for him. He died when he was three months old. Brittany: Oh, I am so sorry. I shared my feelings to demonstrate my understanding of her feelings and to show empathy. This short response was also my attempt to practice containment My show of empathy encouraged her to continue sharing and elaborating. She responded to my containment by sharing her story.

Client: He had the same disease that I do. I didn‟t know it was genetic. I remember holding him in the hospital and crying and the nurse crying and my mom crying and singing him to sleep, seeing his eyes open in a moment

White 9 of recognition for just a moment before he died. And, then, suddenly I felt such a sense of peace, like I knew he was okay. Brittany: Your strength in this experience is unbelievable. I don‟t know how you have the capacity to experience and thrive after all you‟ve faced. You amaze me. Client: Well, my then 8-year-old son helped me. He‟s the one I was telling you about. He‟s really into robotics. I want him to be able to go to Wisco because then he‟ll be able to join the robotics team. At St. John‟s he was the only 6th grader last year to be on the robotics team. I am so proud of him. When we go to the competitions, St. John‟s makes a lot of noise and we have all of these posters to cheer the kids on. They would have placed at state, but there was a glitch in their robot in the final round. But, anyway, after his brother Daniel died, I was in the kitchen one day really upset and crying and angry, yes, I was angry at God for taking my son away from me, and my son, Mark – Mark is his name – said, „Mom, Daniel is okay. His life didn‟t end when he died. It only just began. He gets to live in heaven with Jesus forever.” Brittany: Wow, the wisdom of an 8-year-old. I used a strengths-based perspective not only to validate her feelings and put them into words, but also to reach for continued elaboration. I openly shared my feelings here, but only because I thought they were relevant. She is sharing important strengths with me again here, it is my responsibility to articulate these to her and help her reframe her experiences in a new way. The strength and positivity in her tone of voice was very evident of the genuine work she was completing. I need to be sure to demonstrate support for her in this work. Her ambivalence in discussing these difficult experience does not seem to be as present as it has been, but I need to be sure to continue making an empathic demand for work so that she does not fall into the illusion of work.

This statement was part of my practicing containment. Still, I should have focused more on reaching for her feelings and putting them into words. Focused questioning would also have applied here as a form of elaboration. She validates my words directly by using the word “right.” I put the client‟s feelings into words here, but tried to do so in a way that focused on the strength she has to make changes and to overcome these obstacles. She confirms the feeling of anger that I articulated for her, which reflects her understanding that I care about her and am

Client: Right, it‟s amazing the wisdom that comes out of the mouth of a babe. Brittany: You have gone through a lot of pain and sadness and anger because of all of this, but to still have so much hope and peace surrounding it, that is what is amazing. Client: Well, I remember when I was feeling really angry at God for taking my son away, I went to talk to my pastor and I asked him if it

White 10 was okay that I was mad at God and he said „yes, just repent when you are done being mad.‟ Brittany: It takes a lot of courage and strength to admit these difficult feelings. How are you doing now? willing to discuss death, another taboo subject with her.

Client: I mean I would have had 5 boys, but I miscarried three times and then Daniel died when he was only three months. I guess I just can‟t make a girl. **looks at the clock, sees that it is almost 10:30** But, I would like a tattoo. I am glad this wasn‟t art therapy because I can‟t really draw, but there is one thing that I can draw really well. This set of eyes with tears streaming down. **draws eyes with three tears streaming down** Client: I want this drawing as a tattoo with the eyes made to look like my eyes and the tears would represent my lost boys. If only tattoos weren‟t so expensive. I mean, I guess I have drawn it on myself a whole bunch of times with a Sharpie. Brittany: It is a beautiful drawing. I can hear your love and need for your sons in your voice and the way you carry them so close to you.

I was pointing out her emotional struggle and difficulty in addressing this experience as common obstacle for many clients in their efforts to do work. I used an open-ended question to encourage her to elaborate. She responds to my affirmation of her feelings and continues her story. In looking at the clock, she demonstrates her understanding that we are nearing the end of our session. But, her wiliness to engage in the conversation and in the work suggests doorknob communication. I understood this action of looking at the clock to be a sign of resistance and distraction, requiring me to respond directly.

This continued effort and ability to share openly and honestly seems to defy the reality that this is doorknob communication, and underlying ambivalence does seem to be affecting her ability to work with me. But, these are natural parts of the sessional end. I shared my personal feelings with her because they seemed relevant as a possible way to reach into her ambivalence about this possible doorknob communication, but also because I wanted demonstrate my understanding of her feelings and validate them. I wanted to help her reframe the situation by focusing on her need for her sons and their love. She seemed empowered by this emphasis on her strengths and responds with a demonstration of having worked through both positive and negative aspects of her life. She discusses next steps in addressing her situation

Client: Thank you. Well, I guess I should be going. I cannot wait to meet up with Danielle. I have been praying and praying all night and all morning so far so that we can get that temporary apartment. I am so determined to get

White 11 that apartment. I want to move up and keep living my purpose as soon as I can. Brittany: I love that determination I hear in your voice! Good luck and I cannot wait to hear how the housing goes. I will be here tomorrow for Boom Shaka Laka. Will I see you? and exhibits the strengths necessary to make these changes. I should have done more to summarize our discussion, but I did incorporate some discussion of her next steps as part of my efforts to respond to the almost doorknob communication she shared with me. Still, I wanted to be respectful of the time limited nature of our work with each other. She responds again to the trust, caring, and rapport we have built in this working relationship.

Client: Yeah, I will be here. See you then!