Several sessions with clients at Sequel have caused me to think through a wide range of feelings, emotions and thoughts I experienced. Most of the time they don’t create in me a particular disturbance. Admittedly, early on in my internship last term, I had to work through some issues of working with this population. I have come to grips with the realization they need the assistance we are offering them. I have also realized some of them are here because they have made huge mistakes and deeply regret what they have done and are learning from the treatment how to ensure this never happens again. Some of the clients here will not have happy endings.
There are several sessions that will always stick out to me and be a constant reminder of my time here. One of those sessions was with a client who had been here about a year. His charge is for molesting his younger sister. During a session we were discussing what he thought was appropriate punishment for various individuals who had committed sex crimes against others. The questions in the workbook asked the following (and his answers): If it were up to you, what would the punishment be for someone who raped your mother? Client responded they should get the death penalty. If it were up to you, what would the punishment be for someone who raped your wife? Client responded they should get the death penalty. If it were up to you, what would the punishment be for someone who sexually abused your child? Client responded they should get the death penalty. I then asked him, how he thought his parents felt about the offense he committed? He thought about it long for a time and then responded with ‘that’s probably what my parents think should happen to me.’ It was at this moment the client had a realization of the gravity of his offense.
One of the coping strategies I have noticed the clients at Sequel employ often is one of disassociation. They disassociate themselves from their sex offense. It’s like they conceptualize it as something that someone else has done, but not them. They think of it in terms and don’t truly connect the dots for them. They objectify it and separate themselves from it. This is very difficult for me to process through internally. I am not sure that i am able to understand how it is they are able to separate out like this. When we talk about the details of their offense it is as though they are recounting something they saw in a movies or on t.v.
I suppose this is an effective way to cope with the awful things they have endured in their lives both as victims and as perpetrators. This doesn’t create any particular disturbances in me, what it does it makes a little more difficult for to me understand where they are coming from. Makes it harder for me to be empathetic towards them.
I overcome these feelings inside of me by remembering they were victims too. I learned that very quickly at Sequel. They have all been victimized in some way. This doesn’t change the fact they have victimized someone, but it does humanize them. Remembering they are also victims, provides a setting for empathy to be offered because they have been hurt and are still healing from their own hurt. We have all been victimized in some way and we all need some one who is willing to listen to our story and offer some understanding and assistance in unpacking the bags we have brought with us. That’s why I like being a counselor. Offering understanding and assistance. Offering empathy.