Everybody's Business

Everybody's Business

There Are Few Secrets in a Small Town

By Jan Michael Sherman

March/April 2002

When my wife, Denise, and I moved to a place in the Yukon so small that when someone sneezed at one end of town, someone at the other end reached for the Kleenex, I quickly found that practicing therapy could get pretty tricky. Not only did everyone know everyone else's business, everyone was in everyone else's business. Case in point: because I chose to drink only Diet Pepsi when out in public, word soon spread that I was a recovering alcoholic.

The place in question was a spot in Canada straddling the Alaska Highway just north of the British Columbia-Yukon border that I'll call Mile 666. Home to some 1,600 souls, mostly fugitives from "down south," these were folk for whom the normal overload of urban life felt too much like being buried alive. Denise and I had planned to stay two years, but ended up staying five. Something about the stillness and serenity of the winters--and only three stop signs in town--proved difficult to abandon.

Denise caught on as a medical assistant with the local doctor, while my canine cotherapist, Grizz, and I ran a branch office of a family services agency. I reported, by phone mostly, to a supervisor in Whitehorse, 300 miles and a five-hour drive to the northwest.

In a town so small, the standard therapeutic ban on "dual relationships" was impossible to observe. I quickly came to know almost everyone. And almost everyone knew me. My first client, for instance, was Susan, who bagged my purchases at the Grubstake Grocery and…

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Topic: Ethics

Tags: ethics in therapy

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