I found myself observing my first Family Therapy session a few days ago. It has taken me a while to actually be able to write about, and think about it in a real and practical kind of way.
Before I begin about the session I just wanted to express my fascination for therapy as a whole but also more specifically psychoanalytic thinking as a whole.
I have been in therapy for nearly two years now and I can tell the difference it has made in my life on a very personal level, which obviously effects all the major spheres that make me up.
I have been able to overcome and understand a lot of reactions of my past, I have been able to decipher instances at work and I feel I have been extraordinary at understanding other people’s mental capacities. All stemming from starting to think about myself and my life in its most critical form. I know it may start to sound like I feel like I am at the end of the road of self exploration but I actually believe I am just getting started and I know for a fact there are some deep rooted emotional responses and insecurities that I have merely skimmed the surface of.
What I mean to highlight is just this inner strength I have developed through awareness. I really love this power that I feel within me. I look forward to how this will harness itself in my every day, in my personal and my public.
So…. I was sat in a room with a mirror screen separating myself and the therapist and family in another room. They couldnt see me but I could see and hear them through the glass as well as with a microphone and video feed that was coming from their room.
The family members to attend were Grandma on dads side, dad, mum and daughter (A).
The aim of that day was to talk about something specific. Everyone was brought together to discuss what was going to happen to the young person once she is discharged. It would be a thinking space for the therapist to find out what family dynamics are about and where and what the young person wants.
Dad arrived early and his daughter A were brought into the room and introduced to myself behind the screen. The therapist explained why everyone was asked to come. Mum was running late, and also had dads mother in the car with her. So things were a bit delayed.
Therapist started with A and dad. She was working on the family tree, going through dads side of the family to get a picture of what it was like growing up as dad and the experiences A had with dads side of the family. Dad was remarried, this meant that A had a half sister. A didnt like dads wife, who has had a number of physical health issues soon after dad and her got together. Dad comes from a huge family.
Mum calls in to explain she was lost but is on her way.
When she arrives, I notice how I am harbouring so many negative feelings for her. She was late! Didnt she care? Even if she did get lost? If it was a new place and an important meeting wouldnt you leave earlier and figure out the route to avoid such an issue? Mum looks emotional as she sits down. Greets her daughter. No affection between any of the relatives. Grandma also walks in.
The therapist starts to ask mum about her family tree.
Now that everyone is settling in… Mums phone rings. A’s full sister, mum and dads other daughter is ringing to say her ride is not there to pick her up from school. Mum becomes flustered leaves the room.
Therapist waits for mum to enter. Therapist talks… “So we are here today to try and figure out where A could potentially go when she is discharged” – Therapist asks A where she would want to go. A says with her mum. Mum starts to cry softly. No verbal response but her body language appears ambivalent.
Mums phone rings. She leaves the room again. This time the door is left open. Dad is also trying to help. Daughter B is complaining, “Who is more important?” She asks mum on the phone.
Mum comes back into the room and relays this information. I am startled by this younger child B. Mum responds to daughter A. Something nonsensical about how she would love A to come but A and B fight alot and B doesn’t like to be in the same room with eachother. Mum doesn’t want to have to choose?!!? between A and B. I am confused. Are we here for A or are we here for B. Yes we need to consider other people but today, we are here for A…lets focus on A.
Mum continues to talk about relationship, or lack of that A and B have. I continue to be alarmed. Mum is effectively saying yes I want you but you and B cant live together. So, its sort of like…. mum is already, quite clearly choosing B.
Dad speaks. He doesnt mind A moving in with him. A doesnt like his wife so refuses. The conversation moves on. Dad doesnt appear to be emotionally effected, I think more because he expected this response. I dont detect a lack of empathy but more of understanding. After all, he left a’s mum and found another wife who has probably been looking after, instead of spending time with A.
This becomes clear when mum makes comment regarding how dad has not been there. Mum does everything. Nursed dying parents, brought up 2 girls and works. Very little support from dad. Mum begins to sound more mum like.
Grandma says a can stay with her. However grandma has a small house, living with her new husband. also grandma is not very well, and has a serious illness. She wants a but unsure if she would be able to care for her. Also whether her house would be appropriate for A. Sharing a bathroom with grandma and step grand pa?
Through out much of this conversation A is crying. Mum is also tearful however no family members make any contact whatsoever.
I have a host a feelings within me. I check myself. There are powerful family dynamics going on. A lot of intense emotions and experiences. Life experiences, challenged, raw emotions. Jealousy, hate, fear, incompetence… ambivalence, innocence, hurt… One cannot sit there talking about someone else’s family and not think about your own.
Coming from a big family of my own, and a very broken relationship with my younger sister. It was very powerful to sit and listen to such a poisonous family and sisterly relationship that is so bad that A is effectively being asked to not come home because B cant take it.
If it were me and not A my sister would be the B. A could quite easily be me if circumstances were different.
the meeting needs to come to an end. No real answer was found. Therpaist reschedules for another meeting asking if sister B can be present. The family doesnt think B would come but therapist says lets try. We end.
Infact, after writing all of this I feel like I am even further from making sense of what I was a part of. so many emotions to do with the family as a whole, the individuals, the amazingness of the therapist who dealt with the late mum and grand ma and the phone ringing and interruption of daughter B. Yet she was still able to maintain professional boundaries and from where I was sitting could tell that even though therapist was stirring quite powerful emotions up, the family were not becoming angry. There was more hurt in the room. This is important. If the therapist turns on defences then a second meeting would not work.
Everyone leaves the room.
….. for now I think that is what I have to say about that 35minute session. I am sure I will come back to it and reference it. Perhaps have more clarity along the way. There is a second meeting scheduled for a week later. Let us see where we will venture then.