ACA Blog

Chris Allen
Jun 08, 2011

Day 2 (No TPME for this Post)

The morning goes well for Jim and Fran. They’ve enjoyed a great night’s sleep and feel very well rested. In typical military fashion, the Smith’s leave the confines of their cabin 20 minutes early for their initial appointment with Kamiah. Jim wants to make sure that the couple does not get lost along the way. The cabin in which they walk to really only takes about 10 minutes. On their walk, Jim and Fran enjoyed the sights and smells of the V&B Ranch. Jim wondered out loud to his wife about how the fish were biting, while Fran thought about what it would be like to help out in the vegetable garden they just walked past.



The Smith’s are now walking along a winding brick trail, trees are overhanging the walkway, the sound of nature is everywhere. They pass a large fire pit that looks like it was used the night before for a pretty big camp fire because the embers are still smoldering. The smells coming from the previous night’s blaze are inviting and for some reason bring about pleasant and harsh memories from the past. Finally, the Smiths arrive at an open field, the brick trail leading past yet another garden that sits in front of a moderately large cedar cabin. Smoke rises from the chimney, making the place look very inviting for the Smiths.

Upon opening the doors to this cabin, what they expect to find is a typical clinical type waiting room, the type of space where a secretary will take paperwork, check them in, fill out insurance cards, read outdated magazines, etc.. What they found was something totally different.

The room was very large and a fire was already built in the fireplace. There were leather chairs and sofas everywhere, even the kind of chairs that a person can sit in while getting a massage, like the chairs you would see at a mall. Off to the side in another room, there is a play area, kind of like what you would find at a McDonalds. There’s even a nursery for younger children, but it’s not currently occupied. There are magazines about all kind of different hobbies, careers, and health.

Built into the corner of the cabin’s lobby, near the fireplace, a hot drink stand is set up. There are pastries, coffee, hot chocolate, and tea being served by a young woman. Unknown to the Smith’s the woman is also a guest completing her last week’s stay at the V&B. She is handing out name tags to everyone, so the Smiths put them on.

At a trickle, other guests begin to arrive in the lobby. Loose conversation begins to flow among all of the week 1 guests. Small talk is made as everyone waits for their scheduled appointments. Plans are being created among the guests and bonds are quickly being formed, the kind of bonds people make while they are on vacation.

To the Smith’s surprise, Mel and some other staff members enter the lobby area. Mel’s friends are the other V&B Trip Planners. Mel engages in casual conversation with the Smiths and with other guests, while Mel’s fellow Trip Planners do the same thing. The Trip Planners are building relationships but are also familiar with group dynamics. They are passively observing guest’s interactions with each other. Their observations will be used later as the Staff creates group assignments.

Members of the V&B Best Practices Group are also in the room. They are pretty much co-located with the Trip Planners, learning their techniques, while also enjoying time the V&B guests. The Best Practice Members know that they will not sit in on any counseling sessions or groups today. Their entire focus during this time is to build relationships with the guests, while observing and learning from the Trip Planners.

As if out of nowhere, Kamiah appears in the crowd. She wears a name tag just like anyone else. As Mel introduces Kamiah to the Smith’s for the first time, the Smith’s curiosity is peaked. The woman standing in front of them has a thick Jamaican accent. She’s wearing blue jeans and cowboy boots and starts telling Mel about her daily morning horseback riding adventure. Kamiah doesn’t look at all like what Jim and Fran are expecting. In fact, the Smith’s weren’t sure what to expect, but this was definitely not it. At the same time though, they are comfortable with Kamiah’s “laid back” appearance.

With introductions completed, Mel bids farewell to the Smiths. Watching Mel interact with Kamiah seems to put the Smith’s at ease for the moment, especially as Kamiah leads them to her office.

Kamiah has two week 1 guests that she is the primary Counselor for and reviewed their working case files the night prior. From the notes made by Caroline at New Hope in Chicago and Mel’s current observations, Kamiah has learned the following about the Smiths: (I can’t possibly capture all of the nuances / dynamics that occur during a “session” but I will do my best here in bulleted form.)

Initial Session
Jim’s Concerns:
Remains pretty much quiet about any concerns. “Everything is fine.”
“I haven’t been getting a lot of sleep lately.”
“I would really like to find a job that I enjoy.”
“I have some health concerns that I would like to get checked out but I don’t feel comfortable bringing them up right now.”
“I lose my temper sometimes with Fran lately.”

Jim’s Initial Goals:
“I just want to fix what’s wrong and move on with life.”
“I want to have a good vacation.”
Fran’s Concerns:
“Everything is not fine.”
“Jim won’t talk to me. Maybe you can help us with that.”
“Doctors at the VA can’t explain why I’m having migraines, and they say I should see a counselor.”
“Jim won’t go to see any of the VA Counselors.”
“Nothing I do or try seems to fix the situation.” At this point, Fran begins to cry to the point where she is inconsolable.

Fran’s Initial Goals:
Fran is not able to come up with any goals at this point b/c she is emotionally spent towards the end of the hour. Kamiah doesn’t push the issue and knows that Fran’s goals will evolve over time. Her goals will not evolve because of what happens inside the four walls in which the three of them occupy. Kamiah knows that V&B’s environment, people, and other guests will assist in flushing out Fran’s goals. Kamiah also knows that she will simply assist and guide.

Kamiah’s Observations & Thoughts:
The couple is in the midst of a huge life transition
Maybe old patterns of interacting with each other need to be looked at more closely
Possibly explore individually and with the couple what “fine” looks like.
To address some of the medical concerns brought up by both Jim and Fran, an initial consult with V&B’s Staff Psychiatrist is suggested. The Smith’s are comfortable with seeing Dr. Guilee together and agree to let Mel schedule an appointment.

Kamiah asks and receives permission to also schedule some individual sessions with Jim and Fran throughout the first week of their vacation.

Kamiah also asks for the Smith’s permission to discuss the content of this session and the content of future sessions with V&B Staff Members during routine meetings. The Smith’s had previously agreed to such information sharing but Kamiah wanted ensure the Smith’s understood everything and trusted her as their counselor.

The session with Kamiah ends a little after noon, and the Smiths free to enjoy the V&B Ranch at their leisure.

Kamiah’s Recommendation for the 1pm Staff Meeting:
Brief Description of Staff Meeting
These meetings are held every other day over lunch in the lobby previously described. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the highlights, recommendations, and observations of the guests staying at the Vine and Branch. Not every case for clients in weeks two or three is discussed, but cases for guests in week one are always talked about. V&B Staff discusses all first week cases for the purpose of identifying “higher risk” clients early.

Kamiah’s Recommendation for the 1pm Staff Meeting:
Kamiah does not have any pressing issues for the Staff meeting but does indicate to Dr. Guilee that she will recommend a medical consult with him, pending his schedule availability.

Kamiah does convey the Smith’s goals and her initial thoughts to the Leisure Focused Counselors (LFC)’s in the room. The intent is for the LFC’s to integrate Kamiah’s highlights into daily interactions on the Ranch. She indicates that Jim seems to show an interest in fishing while Fran seems to like gardening and cooking.

Kamiah knows that there are on-going groups that meet on a regular basis to explore fishing, gardening, and cooking, so she lets the LFC’s that manage the Gardening, Cooking, and Fishing groups know that she will recommend the Smith’s join these groups, either separately or together, whatever the couple decides. She will recommend the visits during her next session with the Smiths.

The Smith’s decide to enjoy a late dinner at the V&B restaurant overlooking the lake because both of them are excited about the menu and at the prospect of dining with some fellow guests. Though unsaid between the two of them, the prospect of having dinner with new friends is preferable b/c discussing the events of the previous counseling session would be simply too overwhelming and uncomfortable at this point. Tonight’s main course is prime rib or fried catfish, complete with vegetables grown in the garden.

The Edwards are roughly the same age as the Smith’s, are seeing a different Counselor, and have a different Trip Planner. The couple discusses the places they’ve been and the families that they have back home. Reasons why they are visiting V&B remain hidden between the two couples and that’s fine with everyone. Fran and Lisa chat away about the scenery, other people they have met while at the Ranch, and their kids. They decide together that they would like to join a cooking group they both independently heard about. Chris and Jim pretty much stick to fishing but make no plans for further time together. Dessert is finished and goodbyes are made, an end to an interesting day.

The walk back to the cabin from the restaurant is pleasant and refreshing. Along the way, Jim and Fran spot a camp fire on the beach. They hear laughter coming from around the fire but hesitate to investigate for a number of reasons that are unsaid.

Upon reaching their cabin for the night, Jim discovers an envelope sticking out of the wooden mailbox attached to the front door. Inside, Fran takes the letter and reads Mel’s handwritten note:

Contact Name

Contact Title

Contact Email

Contact Phone

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