battle with a counselor

it was last Tuesday evening, another class of rehab ended, and James made her way to the night counselor’s office.  the door was open, so she just peaked in.  another patient was already in there.

“what’s up, James?” the counselor asked her.

“oh, it’ll just take a second.”  she looked at the patient.  “but I can totally wait.”

the patient shook his head, “it’s not a problem. c’mon in.”

James stepped into the office, joining the other two.  “well, I wanted to let you know that my work schedule changed last minute on me, and I won’t be getting off until at least 4:30 tomorrow and Thursday; so I may be ten or so minutes late.  I doubt it, but I wanted to give you the heads up, just in case.”

“okay,” the counselor’s voice suddenly became stern.  “but you know I don’t like people showing up late.”

James nodded, “I know, but it’s a last-minute change at work.”

the counselor seemed unconvinced.  “we really need to work on coming in on time.  we’re all getting into the habit of coming in late, and that includes you.”

aghast, James frowned.  “the only days I’ve ever been late were Tuesdays, and that’s because of work.  and that was approved before I even signed the first paper.”

“there’s just not a lot of people at the beginning of Group, then everyone comes in late.”  he continued on about how everyone needs to be better about being on time, about how people aren’t taking this seriously, and how both issues are affecting everyone’s recovery.

“dude, like I said, I’m only late on Tuesdays,” James defended herself.  “and I don’t even expect to actually be late tomorrow or Thursday.  I just wanted to give you the heads-up in case I am.”

the counselor basically repeated himself, this time a little more aggressively.

James, meanwhile, was done.  it wasn’t often she was offended; but this was the second time in two-and-a-half weeks that this guy had managed to do it.  “gotcha,” she spat sharply as she turned to leave.

she arrived home livid, releasing her anger the only way how she knew how other than via the bottle — spewing horrible curses.  she decided that upon her arrival to Group each evening, she would henceforth write down beside her name on the sign-in sheet exactly what time she walked into the door.  therein, evidence would support her and disprove the counselor’s false accusations.

later that evening, after having calmed down some, James texted three different fellow patients about her irritation with that specific counselor, including the fellow who overheard it all.  the other two patients agreed that this particular counselor was proficient at annoying or angering them.  the guy in the office, meanwhile, responded as follows:

I actually stayed after and made a few good points like for one we are communicating ahead of time, we also had an understanding before we signed and agreed on treatment that we have jobs and people that depends us. I told I sometimes feel bad for being late but everyone knew our situation before they started billing us and that I talked to my sponsor about it and that he said as long as I keep in touch and acknowledge my recovery threw out the day that is holding myself accountable and also we are not going to be at Townsend forever so I am doing the things that I am going to have to do to stay sober after treatment and then he started acting different about the situation. So to answer your question yes I feel it’s okay I personally have been bothered by a few things with Ryan we of coarse talked about it so we now are under the same understanding.

comforted, James let her anger pass for the evening.  “it’s not worth ruining my day over.  fuck him, and fuck his holier-than-thou bullshit.”  she proceeded to enjoy the night.

Wednesday came along, and she was willing to be open-minded and forgiving.  she was once again eager to continue working on her sobriety.

nevertheless, beside her signature sat the time: 5:17.  (Group, she later noted, didn’t even start until 5:45.)

“hey James,” the counselor called to her when she sat down, “I need to talk to you.”

no good had ever come of him calling her into his office.  already on the defense, she entered and sat down, closing the door behind her.  “what’s up?” she attempted to ask casually.

“the doctor told me that you hadn’t been taking your medicine?”

“well, I ran out Thursday, and I forgot all weekend to refill it.  when I finally remembered, it wasn’t even called in.”

“why didn’t you tell us this before the meeting?”

“what meeting?”

“the one we had with you and Brian on Monday.”

realizing her fault, James felt guilty.  “dude, I totally didn’t even think about it.  I was so worried about the meeting and getting fussed at something, I didn’t even think about my being off the meds.”

the conversation continued, and somewhere along the way, there was a grave miscommunication.  eventually, James admitted that she didn’t even notice she was out until Monday night; but she recalled that earlier in the week, she noted that she would be out of meds by Thursday, and she told the doctor this on Tuesday when she met with him.

seemingly doubting her ability to be an adult, the counselor announced that they were going to have to start pill-counting with her.  that entails random checks that she isn’t over- or under-taking her medication by counting each pill in the bottle.  disgusted, James stormed out of the office.

James later had to take a “cog test”, or a cognitive review test via the computer.  after performing well, the counselor asked her, “do you think it’s because you’re taking your medicine?”

“you know I’m not taking my meds,” James snapped angrily and defensively, “because I’m out!”

“you didn’t take any this morning?” he asked.

James frowned, “no, because the scripts weren’t ready last night, so I couldn’t pick them up.”

“oh…” the counselor paused.  “well, it seems like you’re upset with me.”

yes, I’m upset,” James growled, attempting to hold in her rage.  “I don’t appreciate being treated like a seven-year-old.”

calmly, the counselor inquired, “what do you mean?”

“first I get accused of being late — which I never actually am.  then there’s all this pill-counting shit.  I’m just …” she realised she was losing control of her emotions and her reactions.  “you know what, nevermind.”

James suddenly had a shock of familiarity.  the argument, the fighting — it felt like she was being berated by her father.  and her emotional reactions resembled those of when she fought with her beau.  what is going on?, she wondered.  this was all too familiar to her, and it was time for it to stop.

around this time, the counselor inquired further, eventually asking what he could do to help her.

“just leave me alone and let me take the second cog test.”  she was near tears, and needed to process the whole situation.

“okay.  but we’re not done.  we’re going to talk about this later.”

and later, they did.

“look, I’m sorry.” James apologised.  “I shouldn’t have snapped at you.”

the counselor loosely accepted her apology.  so James pressed further.

“whether a person deserves it or not, whether it’s related to the person or not, no one should be snapped at like that.  so yeah, that’s my fault.  sorry.”

a little more accepting, the counselor nodded.

James and the counselor spoke.  the former never apologised for being upset, but rather only for her actions.  the counselor, meanwhile, never apologised at all.

James left the whole situation the loser — she was the one who lost her tempter, she was the one who apologised, and she was the one who would have to check in regularly about taking her meds.  rather than feeling safe and supported at this facility, she felt attacked and belittled.  she wasn’t sure how she was going to handle six or so weeks of this….


2 thoughts on “battle with a counselor

  1. I would have felt attacked and belittled too. What is wrong with that counselor? They seem to have issues of their own. If it feels like a bad match to you , It probably is. It is very important to have a counselor that is a good match to you. They are people too and some of them just have a personality that is really bad for us to have to endure.Your therapy should not be something you have to “endure” and that sounds like how you are feeling.


  2. hey Annie,

    well, I know him from college six years or so ago. so it’s awkward to begin with. and I probably wouldn’t have taken it as personally with someone with whom I didn’t already have history.

    nevertheless, it was a rude way for him to approach it , IMO.

    I talked with him today, and we’re going to have a different counselor take over my case. he’ll still be my Group leader (he’s the only one who can do nights), but I won’t have to work one-on-one with him. so there may be less enduring there. 🙂


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