Because I'd have been more involved with all three siblings, I might have triangulated the family around responding to the sisters alcoholism after she started drinking again. Of course, this might well have been much less effective than Kumar's focus on the John/grandson relationship, which turned out so well. I can only too easily imagine the family and me sinking into the substance-abuse quicksand pit rather than walking around it.
So these are some of the differences in how I might have approached the case. Even with 20/20 hindsight, it isn't at all clear that my way would have ended up being as good as or better than Kumar's. Who knows? This is truly the nature of therapy, despite all our attempts to replicate evidence-based treatment models.
We therapists truly practice an arcane art. Every day, we have to risk giving our hearts and minds freely to those in our trust, without certainty that we can help them or even avoid doing harm. Sometimes it feels like the blind leading the blind. Despite that, like Kumar, we reach out our hands to our clients and, side by side, walk along with them together for a little while.
Sameet Kumar, Ph.D., is in private practice providing individual, group, and family therapy to cancer patients and caregivers. He also provides palliative care psychotherapy and bereavement therapy to patients with advanced cancer. His first book is Grieving Mindfully: A Compassionate and Spiritual Guide to Coping with Loss. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
David Treadway, Ph.D., is director of the Treadway Training Institute in Weston, Massachusetts. Hes the author of Intimacy, Change, and Other Therapeutic Mysteries; Dead Reckoning: A Therapist Confronts His Own Grief; and Before It's Too Late: Working with Substance Abuse in the Family. Contact: email@example.com.
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