Cognitive Pearl #021 Tevet 3, 5775 December 25th, 14

There are some clients who are simply a joy to work with. They want to be helped, they quickly grasp the nature of therapy, and they readily share their inner world with us. (This is not the place to discuss the mishaps that often occur with these ‘easy’ clients.) There are those clients however who are far from easy to work with: they don’t want treatment, they don’t understand what we’re trying to do, and they’re unable to share their inner world or their ‘outer world with us. We’ve all had instances of clients who would tell us that ‘everything’s fine’ when there was not one iota of their chaotic lives that was in anyway approaching ‘fine’.

What comes to mind is the entrance to the building where we live. A short flight of stairs leads to the portico of the building. Off to the side though is a short ramp which also leads to the same place. Whether it was forced by legal requirements or common sense, the builder saw fit to construct two ways for people to get into the building.

As effective therapists we also need a spectrum of ways for clients who have difficulty with the lingo and process of treatment. Not because they are less intelligent or less educated; rather simply because verbal communication about feelings and their inner world comes hard to them. Or perhaps they already understand that verbal language has become so corrupted by deceit that they no longer trust it as a reliable bridge.

When it comes to this group of clients, it seems to me that there are three categories. The first is made up of those for whom verbal expression is unable to contain and communicate their inner world. Verbal communication may be fine for ordering food in a restaurant or explaining a procedure to an employee; it has no ability to convey the inner experience of sadness or fear or emptiness. The second category is up made of those who lack family, tribal, communal, or spiritual permission to speak truly and openly about what is happening inside, what happened before, or what they want to happen. Many of them are literally mute. Others, while quite talkative (and sometimes fool us into thinking that ‘we are such wonderful therapists’), they basically tell us nothing. The third category is made up of those who are both forbidden to speak and find the verbal medium of communication inaccessible.

The coming dispatches will relate to these people and how to build ramps for them.