As a therapist, there is always some eagerness, anxiousness, and curiosity when beginning a new relationship with an enrolling family. One cant help but wonder, What will they be like, what has their experience really created for them, and how much resentment, sadness, guilt, and hurt do they feel? Though the documents have been read and the case reviewed many times, the thoughts and feelings of what the family is really like comes rushing forward. The experience has been that the cliché of not judging a book by its cover is profoundly true.
This experience creates an immediate sense of empathy for the student and the family. Instantly, the thought of the emotional and physical difficulties incurred by the entire family becomes paramount and the passion to connect with them creates a sense of excitement. The first meeting gives way to the experience of the past and the culmination of emotions leading up to and surrounding where they are in that moment. That moment becomes filled with an expression of the pain, strife, difficulty, dysfunction, turmoil, worry, and heartache which has consumed so much of their lives and existence. Being the therapist, especially in those moments, is tremendously humbling and thus rewarding for the pure fact that individuals are becoming vulnerable and taking the opportunity to share and open up emotionally someone who will authentically listen.
As the relationship develops, the new families receive input and coaching on how to best connect with their student as well as each other. These new families usually listen intently to the direction of the therapist and try to implement new techniques of communication to evoke some genuine emotional change. Quickly, familiarity and trust begin to develop and relational investment increases at an incredible rate. Like all healthy relationships, the New family becomes a Known family and intense guidance, accountability, and work begin to take hold.
Starting with new families is an inevitable experience which always provides opportunity for new relationships. This is an exciting time and requires an tremendous amount of sensitivity and understanding for what the family has gone through as well as a desire to authentically attune with their hurt, hopes, and goals.