Last week, a former client whom I hadn’t seen in over a year called me and asked for a session to debrief a depressive episode that had occurred over her Thanksgiving holiday. I was able to schedule her for the requested two-hour session, which allowed us the time and space we needed to not only address the issue at hand, but the time she needed to reflect on her journey. In truth, the time together was valuable for me, as well. We had started work together when I was a graduate level intern in the winter of 2004, at which time she joined a women’s group that I was leading. She was managing a great number of personal struggles in her life in recovering from a history that included a tremendous amount of trauma from violence: violence in her family of origin, violence in gangs, and violence in her adult relationships. I’m not sure how it came to be that she came to trust me enough to do this, but she made the decision to pursue individual counseling with me. That was where the healing work really seemed to begin. We would meet weekly for the next 4 years. Our time together was one of constant change. The trauma work itself was significant, with each milestone bringing significant changes for her life. Our setting also changed: from my internship site to my LPC supervisor’s office, and finally to my own practice (in a new city that was 70 miles from where she lived), she followed me. Over the course of our time together, I saw many of her life events unfold, knowing details about her history as it was being created. As much as I cared for her, she reciprocated. During session that followed a fall I’d had while jogging, she noticed the bruises on my arms. She asked me if someone was “messing with me,” and nodded toward my arms. Her gaze sharpened and she looked seriously at me. I realized that she was ready to defend any violence I might have encountered. While I’m glad to say I didn’t need defending, I was humbled that she cared about the relationship in such a way that she felt protective of me. We no longer meet regularly, now, holding session only when the need arises. As I said, I’d not seen her for over a year when we met last week, and I may go a very a long period before our next session. When we wrapped up this last time, she asked me, “How old are you now, Stacee?” Old enough to remember many beautiful memories of your development, my beloved client.
Stacee Reicherzer is a counselor, a faculty member at Walden University, and a private consultant with special interests that include: transgender issues in counseling, lateral (within-group) marginalization, and sexual abuse survival.