Will it rain on my parade?

Image from pride parade, lower half of people holding huge rainbow flag

There are so many pressing concerns on my mind right now. Will Dr. Animal kibosh Jelly’s dream of becoming a companion dog because of her aging body (and howling and food-theft potential)? Will I pass screening to volunteer at Canadian Blood Services? Will it rain on the Pride Parade this weekend like it does every year? And how did two garlic bulbs end up in my shopping cart when I only remember selecting one?

But the issue at the forefront of my mind is, in a city of over a million people, how do I bump into former clients so often? What are the chances? It’s been a summer of unexpected encounters all over the place.

What was I trained to do in these situations? If I’m seeing a client and know we’ll cross paths at a specific event, we can discuss it ahead of time and come up with a plan. But usually this isn’t the case. I’m seeing so few clients that most often preplanning is out.

At psychology school, I learned to leave it up to the client. If the client feels comfortable approaching me, I will respond and take time to chat. I’m always pleased when a client feels she can say hello. Enlisting a helping professional shouldn’t breed shame, so a former client’s willingness to reconnect tells me that person feels okay that we’ve met.

I learned not ask anything too heavy in these encounters, like: “Did you excise that toxic friend from your life?” “Have you left your abusive marriage?” Or, “How’s your gambling addiction these days?” Rather, I may ask how the kids are or how the new job is working out.

I also won’t say: “You sound (or look) like a mess. Here’s my card. You should book in.” That would clearly be overstepping bounds. If that person needs to reconnect, he knows how to reach me. Rarely, a chance meeting has prompted a client to return for a spell.

The hardest chance meetings are those where the client is obviously uncomfortable. He may avoid eye contact or run in the other direction upon seeing me. There’s nothing I can do to take that discomfort away, other than respecting that person’s need to maintain distance. It’s pretty natural for some clients to feel uneasy in these situations because they’ve shared such private concerns in our time together. I wish they didn’t feel that way but I understand why they might. I might feel the same way were I in their shoes.

In fact, I was in their shoes recently: J. and I bumped into my therapist and her husband earlier this summer. I’ll admit I felt a bit self-conscious, especially because I was dressed like such a shlump. (Note to self: You never know who you might meet when you go out, so dress accordingly.) I appreciated our chance encounter, and my therapist, appropriately, didn’t skip a beat. I haven’t seen her for some time, so now she knows I’m still alive. That’s something, isn’t it? Next time I happen upon her in the community, I imagine I’ll find it easier, and no doubt I’ll be better dressed.

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4 thoughts on “Will it rain on my parade?

  1. You always make me smile!

    When a fantastic therapist I was seeing, ended our relationship, on very good terms ;), she took the time to explain to me that if we were to see each other in the community, that she would not approach me. However, if I was to approach her, she was open to a friendly chat. I really appreciated her setting that boundary as when I did run into her, I knew the protocol.

    You have such courage to open yourself up to all of the blog followers. Thank you for that and your endless supply of humour.

    Always with a big smile and a hug.

    Marnie

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    • Marnie: Thanks for your thoughts. Your therapist sounds more on the ball than me for making those chance meetings part of your parting discussion. And as for sharing, have you noticed that you are very open too in your comments? I really appreciate that. Smile and hug back. XO

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  2. Once again Annie the Psychologist, you’ve nailed it! I seem to run into both my doctors and my students at the most unexpected places.. which are far, far away from where I work .Rather than engaging in a comfortable and light dialogue about life and weather, I find myself saying “what are doing at this store?” (students) or, worrying about the gardening attire and the garden dirt under my fingernails (doctors)!
    So I love the concept of dressing accordingly and being relaxed in these chance encounters. You really never know who you will encounter on a day out.
    I hope Jelly realizes her dreams of working as a companion dog. And I wouldn’t worry about the one extra garlic bulb. I have had much more unexpectedly end up in my cart… doughnuts, Cheezies, tater tots, fatty fat sour cream. And I swear I didn’t put them there. I swear…

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    • pjhill: I’m glad to hear I may have influenced your choice of attire when you go out, although you looked mighty fine when I happened upon you the other evening. As for your Cheezies and tater tots, I’m glad you treat yourself sometimes (every time?). I do sometimes too but only doughnuts and high-fat sour cream. The sodium count on the others gives me a panic attack. XO

      P.S. Don’t mind me if I’m checking what’s in your cart next time I bump into you at the grocery store. That’s after I scope out your attire. 🙂

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