had supervision yesterday and we discussed a case I had last week that reduced me to a hot mess of panic mid-stream. I did a process recording of it, which is essentially a word-for-word account of the session, and my reactions to it. Not my best work, but I figured if my supervisor didn't know exactly what went on in the session, she wouldn't be able to guide me through the next one. (And I had to remind myself that I'm just a student, and this is all a learning experience for me that I have to take advantage of.)
After the session last week, I processed it with a classmate, and with my dad, and while they both gave me some incredible insight to it, talking about it didn't exactly make me feel better. In fact, it raised my blood pressure. So I was already a little on guard when my supervisor and I started talking.
About thirty seconds into it, I started to get hot and my pulse was racing. Then my biggest fear came true: I felt my throat start to close up, my words cracking, and I just knew I was going to cry.
I guess I'm not entirely opposed to crying--I just didn't feel comfortable in front of my supervisor. She's not the warmest person in the world, and even though I'm a student blahblahblah, I still want to come across as professional and experienced with her. I don't want to look like a freaking crybaby who can't handle one tough session.
But of course, she's a skilled therapist, and could tell I was close to losing it. "You look like you're close to tears. Do you know why you're having this reaction?"
And suddenly, I did. It occurred to me that my reaction to this particular family mirrored experiences I'd had in Alabama. I told her about being unassertive, and the disasterous results of that, including details about that one client who walked all over me with her steel-toed manipulations, and what that felt like for me. How that made me feel about myself. (God, how I did hate myself for allowing people to treat me that way!) And that now when I encounter someone trying to intimidate or manipulate me, I have an extremely adverse reaction to it, and am not quite such a doormat anymore.
But it led to some pretty serious countertransference in the session, which really obstructed the beginnings of a therapeutic alliance with one of the family members. (It also made me realize other instances when I need to learn how to curtail that reaction and not let it affect my work.)
My supervisor's response was, "Do you want me to take the case over?" She said sometimes this happened with students, and she didn't want my learning experiences to be stuck with an unmanageable case--that she'd prefer I get more meaningful experiences with families whose sessions I didn't fear and dread.
Before supervision, I worried the whining words "I just don't know how I'm going to get through another session with them" might spring unbidden from my lips. The moment she gave me an out, though, I realized I didn't need it. Not going back for the next session had never occurred to me, and I knew I could continue on. I thought about the alternative--sitting in the next session with my supervisor as we tranferred the case to her, and I thought I'd rather slit my wrists. I can do this.