Committing to a Year With Charlie

Committing to a Year With Charlie

By John Karash

In early 2016 I was assigned to take an outpatient transfer client because his previous clinician had left the agency. This is when I met Charlie.

Charlie came in for his first session with me and clearly he was interviewing me to see if I was going to be the right  fit for him. He was quite direct, “I need to know that if I commit to working with you, you won’t go and leave me for at least a year. I have had too many therapists come and go and I can’t have that again.”

I knew he was serious, and I took his question seriously. I had not thought about leaving Wayside, but his question made me pause and consider as I did not just want to toss out an answer casually. I thought it over and felt comfortable making a promise of a year. “Yes, I promise I will not go anywhere for at least a year.”

Now, over three years later and Charlie still comes in every week unless he cannot get a ride or some other circumstance gets in the way. Charlie sets the agenda for his own sessions, and he uses the time as he needs it. Sometimes to “vent” and “unload”. Sometimes to talk about the things he went through as a younger child. Sometimes he cautiously talks about the unpleasant symptoms that bother him. A lot of the time we just talk.

I’ve seen Charlie grow into an adult. I’ve seen Charlie graduate high school when, during difficult times, some people probably didn’t expect him to make it. I’ve seen Charlie’s confidence and self-esteem grow.  I’ve seen Charlie discover and then share parts of himself that I could never have anticipated. I’ve seen Charlie stand up for himself in situations where in the past he might not have been able to. I’ve seen Charlie adapt and overcome experiences and circumstances that would have crushed many weaker men.

It’s been an honor to have kept my promise to Charlie, and then to have been a part of his life for these years. I am so very proud of the progress Charlie has made and the obstacles he has overcome. This is why I do this work.

John Karash, LICSW, is a clinician and supervisor of the Family Works Program at Wayside-MetroWest Community Services.

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