Wednesday, April 06, 2011

The Homeless Man

I have had the privilege of working as the primary mental health care provider with a middle-aged man who has been homeless for nearly nine years. Plagued by severe mental health problems, he came to my office a year ago in terror of counseling and other people. It took months of silent sessions to finally start getting to know him. It required modifying my therapeutic approach. I am very much a "go-getter" and solution-focused person. However, when the solution requires time and patience, I begin to doubt my approach, because I do not observe overt behavioral changes. But, over time, he began to talk and told me a horrific story of childhood abuses. Rather than engage in sand-tray therapies, EMDR, or other resolution-focused techniques, the relationship building became the therapeutic goal. I found him to be very intelligent. He had spent years in silent contemplation regarding his own life, the lives of others, and the human condition. He was familiar with Freud, Carl Jung, Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, and other prominent psychotherapists. He was interested in understanding developmental theories by Erik Erikson and Piaget. He often asked for handouts on the information. I was more than happy to give them as I am a strong supporter in developmental theories, and especially in Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs. As time went on, the man began opening up more, expressing his fears of others, including fears of me. He began talking to others in the shelter where he has found refuge. As he does this, it appears (my conjecture) that even the emotional pains and fears he had from childhood traumas are pealing away. This man has taught me the value of unconditional positive regard in the therapeutic process. All he needed, it seems, was someone he could trust; someone that wouldn't tell him that he was mentally ill and broken. Though he has thanked me for my efforts with him, it is I who is truly thankful for what he has taught me as a clinician, and as a human being. Because of this, I would actually love, if it were possible, to continue working with the homeless. I had been afraid before, but have found it invigorating with this one person. The difficulty is finding the funding to pursue this venture. The clinic I work for once received funding for a year to run a free clinic for the homeless. The results were astounding. It all ended with the fall of the economy. Here is to hoping that things will build up so we can continue working with men like him.



That was a great article. Some times as counselors we want to produce solutions and results and not give the client the opportunity and time to work through everything they need to. A lot of time we are the only stable force in our clients lives. Being consistent, giving a listening ear and like you said showing unconditional positive regard is sometimes the only thing they need.

Lawdawg said...

Thank You for reading Coco Loco!