Christmas & Counselling The first Noel
- Counselling; A time to end and a time to begin1st March 2017
- Counselling and the art of giving back1st February 2017
- And this year I will…..1st January 2017
- Social Anxiety, Counselling and Christmas1st December 2016
- Couple Counselling – and just when is a discussion an argument1st November 2016
- Therapy, Mobiles and the Challenge of Choice1st October 2016
- Counselling, September and an Ellison’s Orange 1st September 2016
- Counselling – A room with a view1st August 2016
- Counselling: Choices and Decisions1st July 2016
- Counselling, Musee d’Art et d’Histoire and the Inevitability of Change1st June 2016
- Counselling and the art of Ambiguity. 1st May 2016
- Repetition; Normality or Folly. A Counselling Perspective1st April 2016
- Lions, Lambs and Therapy3rd March 2016
- Valentines Day, Counselling and the Great Unknown1st February 2016
- Janus Faced? The New Year, Counselling and Psychotherapy1st January 2016
- So which road do we travel this Christmas...1st December 2015
- Counselling, Guy Fawkes and Scapegoating1st November 2015
- Counselling Work and Narrative Therapy1st October 2015
- Counselling, Therapy and the end of Summer1st September 2015
- Wheat, Rye and Counselling1st August 2015
- Counselling and a break away3rd July 2015
- Counselling and the unexpected1st June 2015
- Counselling, Elections and our opportunity to choose1st May 2015
- Therapy, an April fool and the art of lost memory1st April 2015
- A Spring Clean Therapy and Counselling1st March 2015
- Couple Counselling & Valentines Day1st February 2015
- Nothing changes if nothing changes but this year can be different!1st January 2015
- Social Anxiety Disorder A Christmas Concern1st December 2014
- SAD & those dark Winter nights1st November 2014
- Existential Counselling A useful approach or pretentious jargon?1st October 2014
- Counselling, Therapy and a return to work1st September 2014
- Holidays, Counselling and your Shadow1st August 2014
- Couple Counselling and Choice1st July 2014
- Counselling, Jules Rimet and you A therapeutic perspective1st June 2014
- Counselling and Mayday A different take on a familiar story?1st May 2014
- Useful Therapy and not an April Fool1st April 2014
- Counselling, Floods and Pandoras Box1st March 2014
- Counselling and the art of being normal1st February 2014
- The New Year and a time for change?1st January 2014
- Christmas & Counselling The first Noel1st December 2013
- Counselling, Broomsticks & Halloween1st November 2013
- Couple Counselling and just what is a successful relationship?1st October 2013
- Counselling An issue of choice?1st September 2013
- Existential Counselling From Yalom to Basingstoke1st August 2013
- Counselling and the art of reframing1st July 2013
- Counselling - Change or Conformity?1st June 2013
- May Day Counselling - Celebration or Conflagration ?1st May 2013
- Summer Time & the Counselling Room1st April 2013
- Depression a useful diagnosis or an unhelpful label?1st March 2013
- An Emotional Timeline3rd February 2013
- Resolution, Revolution & Counselling1st January 2013
- Christmas, Carols & Counselling2nd December 2012
- Seasonal Affective Disorder and the SAD Season4th November 2012
- Psychotherapy & Counselling A Stoic Perspective17th October 2012
- 10th October 2012 - World Mental Health Day5th October 2012
- A First Meeting Explanation or Exploration?5th September 2012
- CBT, Mental Filtering and the Olympics19th August 2012
- I am not an angry man 14th July 2012
- Art, Counselling & Interpretation26th June 2012
- Murder Mysteries and Psychotherapy25th May 2012
- The importance of choice in therapy29th April 2012
- Reflections on Spontaneity6th April 2012
- A personal trainer for the mind 12th March 2012
I held a rather strange counselling session a few days ago. I do not usually refer to client meetings in this blog but given the time of year, this case may be of some general interest.
It was one of those sessions when I found myself wondering what I was missing with regard to this client. There was just something I could not put my finger on.
Let me set the scene....
The client was an elderly male dressed rather eccentrically. He was sporting an eye catching red outfit and dramatic flowing beard. He had a rather strange accent with perhaps a hint of the Scandinavian. He seemed quite jolly and there was certainly a very pronounced twinkle in his eye but he also showed some very real signs of stress and agitation.
That sense of there being something unusual had been apparent the moment he arrived. There is a large car park here at Worting House just outside of Basingstoke. Noel, and that was the name he gave, had decided however to leave his rather strange contraption right outside the main door. It quickly became the centre of attention.
My office is in a setting which is both urban and rural and I am used to seeing horses. The horsepower which moved this contraption was certainly of the four legged type. They were the oddest horses I had ever seen with strange pieces of bone seemingly tied to their heads.
Noel was obviously jolly fond of these rather strange looking horses. Once they were reined in he was very solicitous. He referred to them as dear and requested carrots for them. Apparently they were in the process building up energy reserves for some herculean task ahead of them in the coming days. Noel said that people usually gave them mince pies. He winked at me as he said that as if I would know what he was referring to. I had no idea what was going on so I just winked back. I think from his ‘ho ho’ response that was the right thing to do.
It took a while to reach my consulting room but Noel told me that he was not used to stairs as he usually took a ’ ..more direct route up and down….’ That was the first of some oblique comments which left me a little bemused. Nevertheless I always encourage clients to express themselves in their own distinctive way and Noel certainly did seem to have a very distinctive if not idiosyncratic approach to life.
He clearly liked my location. I work from offices in an old country house. Noel was certainly taken with the architecture of the house. He kept referring to the large number of chimneys and how useful that would be for him although I was not sure what that meant.
Once seated, Noel launched into a description of what we call in therapy, the presenting problem. This focussed almost entirely upon his work situation which was apparently very important to him especially at this time of year. As he talked I was aware of holding increasing concern for his emotional wellbeing.
His references to fixed working behaviour patterns and an absolute adherence to a timetable suggested some OCD tendencies. There were clearly elements of delusional disorder as he talked for example about having to please and provide for all the children of the world which was jolly hard work.
I was certainly uncomfortable with his fixation on children. This seemed to range from the benign with a general concern to see children happy, to a slightly more disturbing comment about the untidy state of all the many bedrooms he had visited in previous years.
As is often the case with new clients I wondered about his background but Noel was rather evasive. He appeared to be an immigrant from northern Europe but he gave no indication of whether he held any formal work permit. He seemed to embrace the notion of the free movement of labour so he may well have been an EU citizen.
Noel clearly had a family of sorts as he made numerous references to being assisted at home by what he referred to as little people. I assumed this must relate to children although given the way he described them he could almost have been talking about fantasy figures such as hobbits or even elves. Obviously not!
As he spoke, my concern for the welfare of these minors deepened. Noel talked about them not being in education but instead working in some form of production and that the pressures upon them were intense especially at this time of year.
They also seemed to be living in what appeared to be a cold environment. He made a number of puzzling references to the north pole. My assumption was that this north pole was perhaps a pub or club, maybe some form of tent support or perhaps even some variant on exotic dancing. He did not clarify.
Noel was avuncular and jovial in his approach to life and yet there was evidence of strongly held obsessional fixations. I was alerted to his continual references to his key role at this time of year. He saw the happiness of the children of the world as dependent upon his efforts. The rather narcissistic comment suggested severe ego fragility. That in turn lead me to wonder about his immediate support network. Apart from these small helpers and his animals he did not seem to have any other close supporters.
I was also very struck by the absence of female actors in his narrative. My apprehension about something inappropriate resurfaced. I realised that he was quick to talk about what little girls wanted but seemed rather unclear about how he could interact with women. It was as though he had real challenges in interacting with individuals once adolescence was reached.
There was certainly a marked ambiguity about his general approach towards sexual symbols and he appeared to embrace some well defined fetishes. I have some personal experience of fetishes – clearly I hasten to add in just a professional capacity – but his linking of stockings with tangerines rather than an elegant shapely female leg was new to me.
My attempts to understand him then foundered completely when he started to link these stockings to chocolates and small often humorous gifts. Given that he talked of working very late I started to wonder about Noel and the ladies of the night. When he then moved on to talking about his preference for dressing up and red noses I decided that he may benefit from some signposting to another agency specialising in unusual deviant behaviour.
Nevertheless Noel seemed pleased to have the opportunity just to unload his thoughts in the room. I wondered out loud if that reflected his unconscious carrying and shouldering of a heavy burden. His very hearty chuckles and ‘ho ho’s’ indicated that he clearly found that comment rather amusing. Again I was not sure why.
As we concluded I wondered about further meetings. Noel indicated that he would like a regular meeting and mentioned wanting to book another date in December but one that was not too close to Christmas Day…..’ I assume that would be because of holiday commitments on his part at that time and Noel seemed to agree. He talked again with the jovial ‘ho ho’ that he would be doing a lot of flying at that time.
Despite my misgivings I decided to offer a further appointment although I was not sure about modalities and strategies. A psychodynamic approach could help him to work through some of that early childhood material, CBT could assist with changing those obsessive thoughts around work; and since he had been able to see an ending of his work load, a solution focussed approach could fit with his positive outlook.
These thoughts quickly faded however when I looked at his preferred appointment date. He certainly was looking for regular appointment but at a yearly interval. The appointment date he was requesting was for a day in early December next year! Next Year! What sort of client is it that wants a regular appointment once a year in December!
And this where we came in. I am just holding that feeling that there is something here that I am just not seeing. So if you have any thoughts on what I may have missed perhaps you could let me know?
As I said at the outset, it was a rather unusual therapy session……!
And a happy Christmas for all and a very good New Year
(For reasons of good ethical practice the identities in this case study have been changed to ensure client confidentiality. I emphasise for the avoidance of doubt that Noel is not Santa’s real name. The lead horse Rudolph has given me formal permission to refer to himself and his colleagues in this note although a small fee was paid of four mince pies, two carrots and a glass of beer. These really were rather strange looking horses……….)
added on 1st December 2013
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