A comment on process, shoulds, and oversight


If you are new to my blog and reading its motley assortment of essays, short stories and diatribes, you might wonder as to my purpose. After all, the link at the bottom indicates addiction as a central theme, yet that overused cultural term has gotten short shrift in recent months. Indeed, you’d have to go back over a year, to entries running concurrent to the publication of Working Through Rehab, to read my thoughts on that matter.

More recently, I’ve been in a satirical mode, an oblique, withholding habit. Perhaps it’s the role of therapist which inclines me towards mystery. From my office chair, my opinions are selectively available, but are secondary to those of clients. A therapist evinces some principles, most notably the belief that attaching words to thoughts and feelings is good for people. Beyond that, the pedantry is thin, leaving room for others. What happens next involves listening, or tracking, mirroring, or attunement. More sparsely, it entails interpretation, reverie, and with rarer opportunism, a suggestion or two.

The adventures, diaries, and such of Process Man and Should Woman are mischievous gratifications: of a therapist’s after hours play; of my implied biases; of clients’ wishes for reciprocity, for revelations litter the subtext. PM and SW represent and lampoon contrasting poles of the mental health industry: on the one hand, a faction that is aloof, circumspect, commenting on the how of things, refraining from directives. The opposite wing is plainspoken and unpretentious—it enters the trench more readily and grabs the needy by the scruff. Either side thinks the other misguided, though in collegial circles we smile, shake hands and say there’s a time and place for everything.

Who is in charge of all this? The Board of Behavioral Science? The APA? Anthem Blue Cross? Kaiser? John Gottman? Patrick and Stephanie Carnes? Francine Shapiro? Who determines what style, methodology, or philosophy works with selected populations, or presenting problems?

Not me, but in the fantastic realm of mental health mountain, my psychewriter alter-ego plays reluctant leader. Flawed and vulnerable, he is Hamlet’s father, The Wizard of Oz. From behind a locked office door, he is an able orator and a capable mirror, but also a secret dispatcher, a shadow program director, wielding a desire to influence. Implicitly, he has nurtured his neurotic offspring, the overconfident, cheesy Process Man, who plays the hero, dishing out comic translations and then vanishing like the good witch. Should Woman is a righteous helper, chip-on-shouldered, feeling neglected by patriarchal oversight. With soldierly presence, she intrudes more doggedly, and sticks around, outstaying her welcome because she cares so goddamned much.

I’ve known colleagues who are derivatives of such caricature. I think these figures are more prominent in hospital programs and agencies: places where teams direct services, and an audience for bombast is required. A third psychewriter creation, Thunder Male, is referenced in this vein but not enacted in the stories. The character was triggered (inspired?) by a commercial for a documentary featured Dwayne Johnson, aka “The Rock”. In it, a boot camp for miscreant youths (primarily male) is profiled, showcasing the hypermasculine ethos of tough love wherein tender care for trauma is eschewed, save for the lip service. Ultimately, Thunder Male’s nightmare emergence is averted, as psychewriter chooses to boost the flagging spirit of Process Man instead. Both he and Should Woman will be nurtured further and sent back to their jobs, revitalized. A happy ending, right? All therapists, regardless of the settings they work in, need support to stay in this work. The helped may wonder if we feel love, hate, envy, shame, guilt, loneliness, anxiety, rejection, joy, or even compulsion, as much as anyone else, in and out of our working roles.

You may wonder.

Graeme Daniels, MFT



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