If you have a broken arm, a doctor needs only to stitch up any wounds, set the bones, and apply a cast so the bones can heal. A more complete assessment of your health isn’t necessary unless you’re displaying signs of other problems. In the same way, when a client comes in to my office seeking a specific, well-formed therapeutic outcome, I believe there’s no need for a detailed assessment of their entire life history and family relationships. This is particularly true when the outcome is to change an automatic habit, which was the request I received recently from a father wanting to bring in his 13-year-old daughter, Donna, because she had a habit that was upsetting her.
“And what is this habit?” I asked.
“She picks her nose and eats the snot,” he answered bluntly.
“How long has she been doing this?” I asked, “And what’s been happening recently that’s caused you to seek professional help for it?”
“She’s had this habit since she was a small child, but now she’s in junior high, and other students are making fun of her for it. She’s tried to stop, but as soon as her attention wanders, a finger is picking again. She keeps coming to me in tears, and I want you to help her.”
The following week, when I met them in my waiting room, I found a slender, distinguished-looking man in a well-tailored suit, sitting with his left arm protectively around the shoulder of his daughter, who had beautiful features, long hair, and looked at least 16.