Opening The Path


May/June 2011


From What Is to What Can Be

By Barry Duncan

Down for the count, a therapist again discovers that even the most hopeless sessions can have a positive outcome if you stay with the process.

A recent consult I did illustrates the intrinsic rewards of healing involvement and intimate connection. Rosa, who was 7, had gone to live with her foster parents—her aunt and uncle, Margarita and Enrique—because the parental rights of her birth parents had been terminated. Both her father and mother were addicts with long criminal records; the father was in jail, and the mother was still using drugs. The new situation wasn’t going well, however. Rosa’s mom had ingested crack and other drugs during the pregnancy and the child, as young as she was, already had received a handful of diagnoses (pediatric bipolar disorder, AD/HD, oppositional defiant disorder). She clearly had been born with two strikes against her: parents missing in action and her development impaired by drugs.

Rosa was a “difficult” child, to say the least—prone to tantrums that included kicking, biting, and throwing anything she could find. The family’s previous therapist was stymied and had referred the family to me for a consult. I began the session by asking Rosa if she could help me out by answering some questions. She immediately yelled, “NO!” leaning back, with her arms folded across her chest. As I turned to speak with Enrique and Margarita, Rosa began having a…

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