My husband and I live in the countyside we work in. My husband teaches in the town we live in. My daughter attends the school system my husband teaches in. The only spot we have not been in yet is my daughter having her father as a teacher-but we will get there soon enough. Living in a small town can be almost incestuous and not by the normal definition. A majority of the people in our town have lived here all their lives so the blood lines run long and deep. When you are transplants like my husband and myself it can be tough to be welcomed. I was looked at as a “city girl” for a long time.
So in a small town how do you do counseling? Well I’m not so sure I have figured it out yet. I see clients all the time. I see them at football games, restaurants and the grocery store. One good thing is many of my clients need a break from me so they are not running up to me wanting to talk they are usually heading away from me. My husband has kids in class who come up to him and say “your wife was at my house last night.” That makes for an awkward moment. I can’t tell my husband who I go see I merely tell him the area in which I will be in case something goes wrong. My husband has learned to say “I don’t know where my wife goes or who she sees.” Bless his heart that rarely deters a seventh grader. I guess I am stunned at the amount of kids who don’t mind shouting out in class or down the halls when they see me in school “Hey there’s my counselor or she’s my counselor she comes to my house.”
I think all I can do is roll with it. I used to be really afraid people would find out where I live and come to my house or follow me home but I think I was thinking a lot about my popularity more than the reality which is clients don’t want to see me outside of the therapeutic setting anymore than I want to see them. So what do we do? We put on our masks and dance. Meaning if I see someone coming towards me at the grocery store I begin studying the various cheeses intensely while my client walks by as if I am not there and we both breathe a sigh of relief and never mention it in a session. Honestly clients and counselors alike don’t want to be monitored or feel they can’t to some degree be themselves.
When the day is done it is important to remember I did not become a counselor to make friends and my clients should not want me as a friend so as long as we wear our masks in public the dance that is therapy goes on and that’s OK.
Julie North is an in home family counselor in a rural county in South-Central Michigan. She has a private practice and is currently being trained in TF-CBT and complex trauma therapies.