When couples get together, the challenges that each experience in life is unknown. This is the excitement that a couple shares as their lives are joined as one. Within their lives together, sometimes they experience challenges in themselves and others, they experience as a couple. These challenges may feel as if they are individual at times but in theory; each challenge is going to effect the relationship that they have built with each other. It takes a commitment to the relationship to be able to reach out to a stranger and ask for guidance for some challenges that are more overwhelming than others. Reaching out for help can bring the relationship back to its unit, as well as bring the individuals back to stronger individuals. This will eventually lead to a stronger, open, honest relationship that deserves the commitment that had been built. Josh and Patty reached out to Susan Johnson to rebuild their relationship.
The steps they have to take as well as the steps their helper has to take will once again pave them a path to a healthy relationship as well as healthy individuals. Susan opens up the introduction of their session and tells the clients that when they say something that she either wants to touch back on later or finds interesting, she will write it down. This is Susan verbally offering the clients information, so they are not wondering what she is writing, or why. The clients are open to asking questions about the session as well as practice any concerns. Susan remains connected to the clients with eye contact and points to her notepad when she summarizes what was previously spoken. Susan also uses verbal skills and reflects when she is asking Patty about why she does things like lock herself in the bathroom to be alone. Patty is hesitant but, explains her feelings of just wanting to get away and be alone. Josh explains that he feels shut out when she acts this way, and Susan paraphrased by saying that he feels more than shut out of just the bathroom.
She then reflects, telling him that he being on the other side of the door makes him feel as if that door was an emotional barrier between him and Patty. This was effective because it was an analogy used while summarizing what Patty had said, the nod of Patty’s head reassured both Susan and Josh, that her summarization was accurate. Josh explains that he feels Patty doesn’t hear him or see him at times. He tells Susan that he wants to be there for Patty and wants to help her through whatever she wants to be alone from, he is there and not invisible. Susan reflects and repeats back to Josh “I’m not invisible” (Johnson, 2009). She then paraphrases what they just discussed by telling Josh that he feels invisible, and on the edge of Patty thinking he is not emotionally being there for her when she needs him the most. Susan has been connected to the couple, observing their body language between each other as well as asks opened ended questions to each, paying attention to both of them to see how they interact while answering questions.
Susan asks opened ended questions when she asks Patty if she can tell Josh that she feels the little things he does for her, and she needs him to keep doing that. She can feel him reaching out for her, and then Susan asks Josh a closed-ended question “can you hear her?” he responds with “yes” (Johnson, 2009). This is effective questioning and has many responses available, however; the critical information of what they are feeling will be revealed. Susan also uses closed-ended question while paraphrasing “you being here touches me, I am just so afraid. That’s what you’re telling him?” Patty responds with “exactly”(Johnson, 2009). This shows the client that the helper is indeed using observatory skills and is engaged with the connection between the two. She asks them to speak to each many other times and watches their body language as well as reflects on their conversations between each other. Susan also reflects many times by using verbal communication such as “mmhmm” and nodding her head in agreement.
After asking Josh to tell Patty how he feels when she verbally tells him that she appreciates him being there; Josh and Patty hold eye contact and there a moment of silence. Susan allows this moment of silence and asks Josh “what’s happening?’ He replies with it “is nice to look at Patty and feel that connection” (Johnson, 2009). Patty replies with a joke and Susan adds to the joke with a comment about a lot of tea, almost breaking the ice and changing direction of the conversation. Susan’s body language is effective when at times, Patty appears to be getting emotional, and Susan will lean over, make eye contact and lay her hand on her knee. This is a type of ethical touching that is appropriate due to the clients in the scenario as well as the age and maturity of the client-helper bond that has been created here. The conversation changes verbally as well as non-verbally when Susan tells the couple that they are dealing with their issues in an amazing way. Patty responds with she thinks Josh is but, she feels she is a mess.
Susan reflects with “you’re a mess” (Johnson, 2009) and the movement of her head and the way her body leans into her, shows that she is a bit surprised. Susan allows a silent break which invites Patty to start talking about her trust issues. This silence is an attending behavioral tool that invites more information from the client and is utilized effectively here. Patty talks about not being used to having someone be so good to her and remain so available to her. Susan again paraphrases by comparing it to him asking her to a dance; one of the biggest dances of her life. After some light laughing, Patty gets emotional after speaking of bad past experiences and relationships, opening up to both Susan and Josh. Susan listens and observes the body language between the two. This takes the conversation in a more intimate direction for the couple. Susan encourages the couple to self-disclose during the entire session, however; in this scene, she gets Patty to talk about abusive relationships that start with her father.
Susan summarizes Patty’s thoughts on being out of her element and afraid of a positive relationship; this was effective because Patty seemed hesitant by the way she looked over at Josh to admit that with Josh present. Susan’s was of summarizing it, invited comfort to Patty, realizing that the feelings she has and is experiencing are normal, considering the circumstances. Susan utilizes the exploration, clarification and action stages in this interview. She talks to Josh and Patty about previous sessions they have had with a counselor Keith. They discuss their experiences, what has worked and what did not work. They discuss that they are there on a Saturday to set this video and utilize it as an example for sharing. They discussed Patty’s previous issues of her being raped and how far she has come in her recovery process. Susan summarizes to Patty that a part of action in her recovery process is to take “tiny risks”.
The session moves into a clarification stage many times. Patty is aware of why she feels and acts the way she does; she is seeking guidance to control herself in a more positive manner. They talk about the effect this behavior has on Josh, and he as well contributes by adding that he understands the reasons and wants to be a part of her healing process instead of shut out. Susan tells the couple to speak to each other many times so that the communication is wide open. Patty discloses that it is very frustrating for her to walk out of a room and all of a sudden, she shuts down. Susan reflects with “Hmm” (Johnson, 2009). Susan gives the proper feedback while telling Patty that she has come so far. At the same time, ensuring Josh that he does an amazing job of remaining available to Patty and wanting so badly to be a part of her recovery. By summarizing to Patty, “you can see the dance you’re caught in, okay and that’s amazing that you can do that. All right. Lots of couples can’t do that. They have to do a lot of work before they can do that.
You can tell me the steps”, this shows Patty that she has taken action steps to be able to see these things and acknowledge them as well. At the end of the video, they conclude after much self-disclosure, that Patty also feels as if Josh is too good to be true. Susan reflects by saying “The love is for all the other princesses, who were never hurt and alright. How could he want to reach for me, I’m not a beautiful enough princess. I’m a hurt princess. How could you really want to be with me, right?” Patty responds with “Very much still. That’s well said. That’s exactly the way it feels” (Johnson, 2009). Susan stops the conversation and asks Josh to apply action right there and asks him if he can look at Patty and tell her what he is feeling. “She’s telling you Josh aren’t I just too broken for you, you would really want to struggle to come and be with me, aren’t I, maybe just too broken.
I’m scared that I’m just not the beautiful princess enough for you to keep fighting to be with me. What happens to you when she says that?” Josh responds with “It makes me want to tell her that you are who I want to be with. I don’t want to be with anybody else” Susan reflects with “you are my princess, huh?” Josh concludes “that’s right” (Johnson, 2009). This session was very productive considering this is the first meeting that occurred between Susan, Patty and Josh. It stayed focused, had structure and Susan chose when to keep silence as well as stop conversations.
Susan summarize what had been said while following up with opened ended questions; utilizing them to help the couple disclose between one another. Considering the fact that all were aware they were being taped and were wearing microphones, the genuineness in the session was still present. The body language showed emotion and the nonverbal communication showed honesty as well as emotions. All stages were not only utilized but, in the proper place and used at the appropriate times. Susan was present and showed all signs of effective listening, effective questioning, reflecting content and feeling as well as confronting, self-disclosing and putting it all together.
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