Mothers Day is in the books as a new memory…hope all the mother’s out there had as happy a day as possible under these dire circumstances… you know the old saying, “if life gives you lemons, turn them into lemonade.” … so as we are tested every day, it’s so important to “stay positive.” In spite of what we see on TV news reports.

Back to my new job in 1986 at ICD. I forgot to mention that at ICD we had all the same departments as we had at Rusk except that because we provided services to Outpatients, clients who were finished with their Inpatient stay, were now living back home. We also worked with clients who were born with their physical challenges, so I was able to broaden my learning curve with this new population for me. ICD had a heavy emphasis on helping people to gain meaningful employment, if they wanted to try going to work. We had an additional department, besides the Vocational Dept. which was called the Placement Dept. The workers in the Placement Dept. developed working relationships with many companies who were dedicated to hiring our clients. My department was called the Behavioral Medicine Dept. as our focus was on helping our clients look at and asses their positive behaviors and the behaviors that were not giving them the outcomes that they wanted to have. As I said before, this new job was exactly what I was ready for. It felt like Rusk was my 13 years of college and ICD was my 22 years of graduate school.

My boss at ICD, did the same thing my boss at Rusk did, he put me to the test with my very first client. Anna, in 1986, was a 29 year old African-American woman who lost both her legs when she was 20 years old, in a motorcycle accident. She was a passenger just going for a joy ride. Anna was in our Vocational Dept. workshop. ICD had a large area on the ground floor that had clients get on the job training with a variety of assembly jobs. The clients received a weekly stipend for the work they produced. Anna had been acting out and getting into loud arguments with other clients and she was referred to the Behavioral Medicine Dept. for therapy and she became my first client. I spoke to her supervisor before seeing Anna and her supervisor was at her wits end. She told me that she didn’t think I could work with Anna because Anna thinks she does not have a behavior problem, it’s everyone else who has the problem. She wished me luck but also told me that Anna was halfway out the door already but she would keep her if I could help her to control her behavior and not act out on the other clients but I better get quick results because she wasn’t going to put up with Anna much longer. I told her I would meet with Anna ASAP and give it my best try.

At our first session, I saw very quickly how Anna’s behavior could rub people the wrong way. She was very bossy in her attitude. Threatened me by saying, “What you want to see me for?” I explained that she was in danger of getting kicked out of the workshop due to her getting into so many arguments with her fellow workers. When I said that she almost leaped out of her wheelchair and said to me that she felt that her supervisor was picking on her and she felt that she was doing nothing wrong. If they want to fire me, she said, then let them f’in fore me. I don’t give a damn! She presented as a real challenge. I then read her client chart out loud to her which gave her medical history, and her family history. She lived in a housing project in Brooklyn in a very rough and dangerous neighborhood. She was raising a 11 year old son, as a single mother. Since her accident, she had relationships with men that always ended badly after a few months. She also had problems with her family and was always getting into arguments with them. She asked me many questions about myself and I gladly answered all of her questions as we got to know each other in this first session. I made her feel that she was in a “safe place” with me, I was there to help her to look at and improve her relationships with the people around her every day life. I made her feel that we were in this effort together. She seemed to relax and see that I was not there to judge her behavior. She liked the fact that I gladly gave her my home phone number, for emergencies, if she wanted to talk about whatever was upsetting or bothering her. Her tough attitude gave way during the session to a more relaxed and pleasant one. I believed we got off to a good start and she did too.

Since there was no “time limit” as to how long I could work with her as long as I documented the reports Medicaid required, I was able to develop a working relationship with her that lasted on and off for well over 10 years. I helped her with her parenting problems, her family problems, her boyfriend problems, her boss problems and her problems with her co-workers. She responded well to my style of therapy and she called me at home whenever she was in crisis and I always seemed to help her to calm down and help her to begin to solve each crisis as they came up. Anna had such a negative reputation with the staff at ICD and when they saw how much her behavior improved, my boss and colleagues saw that I had what it took to work with people like Anna. So the referrals to me came hard and fast. I quickly went from having one client to a full caseload of 30 individual clients and a Men’s Group of 10 clients that met weekly for 1 1/2 hours. Tomorrow I will try to give you a “snapshot” of some of my other memorable clients like Anna.

Read the next post Taking Stock Day 56.