Person-Centred Case Studies

1. The Case Study of Tom: I Feel Lousy

Tom, a self-referred client and I worked in psychotherapeutic alliance for just over five years. At the end of our contract Tom asked me to disclose aspects of our journey together whenever I felt it appropriate or helpful to others to do so. A number of personal details that might identify him have been altered in order to preserve his anonymity. Any substance abuse/addiction is an insidious mental and emotional disease that becomes highly obsessional and often ends in institutionalisation, long term incarnation and/or premature death.

Repeatedly sexually abused in childhood by a man in his early twenties, Tom had also endured a number of sexual assaults from other adults. Our work together spanned five years and with Tom I experienced the most profound manifestation of the other characteristic/relational depth I have ever had. Deep into our alliance, as Tom was telling me of his inner feelings of worthlessness and being lousy tears begun soundlessly pouring down my face. My internal supervisor enquired of me: “Should you be weeping like this?” Responding to these intrapersonal doubts I said to Tom, “I sorry I am crying but I am here with you all the way”. Tom replied: “Don’t be sorry Christine not many people have cried for me”.

With Tom’s reply I literally felt my life force/spirit lift out of my body as Tom’s life force seemed to lift out of his. Whilst I could still feel something of me rooted in my own body, our life essences seemed to become as one in the middle of the room. Everything seemed to expand. Yet at the same time nothing else seemed to exist except the sense of joining between us and a sense of largeness and a connection to something more expansive than our combined selves. Time seemed to stand still and we were locked in intense eye contact.

One of us spoke, I can’t remember who, and I found myself fully present back in my own body.

”That was weird,” commented Tom. I could only answer “Yes it was.” We sat in silence, almost reverently, for the last part of the session; both apparently overcome by the profound link we had experienced existing between us, that also felt intertwined with existence itself at the same time.

Our work noticeably deepened.

Tom begun to make remarkable changes in his life, he addressed and arrested a number of substance addictions (through becoming a member of several 12 Step Fellowships and by continuing to explore and deepen his self-understanding within our alliance) and he began to gain a positive sense of self. Tom’s self- worth and self-belief sky-rocketed as did his capacity to achieve, and when he was promoted to a managerial position at work Tom felt the time had come to end our alliance.

I bumped into Tom just under a year ago in the West End of London; he seemed genuinely happy to see me. He introduced me to his wife and two small children. He had successfully climbed the Cooperate Ladder since the end of our alliance and contemporarily held the senior position of Company Training Director. Just as we parted in the street Tom grabbed my hand and with his other hand on his heart he mouthed “Thank-you” – we simply smiled deeply at each other then travelled on our separate ways - always to be connected but never bound by the power of the healing we had accomplished together.

2. Jack: Jumping Jack Fearful?

Jack had been violently abused growing up and had seen his mother beaten by his father on countless occasions. Now In his early twenties Jack was a recovering drug addict four years clean and currently in a relationship he wanted to develop but was fearful of committing to.

Whenever Jack began to describe his experiences with his abusive father, Jack would pause, look up, go quiet for a while then change the subject. There seemed to be little movement taking place for him as a result of our psychotherapeutic association.

However, during one session, about a year into our alliance, Jack began to talk about his father again and I suddenly felt the need to probe him for greater disclosure, something I don’t usually do with clients. A blank look came over Jack’s face as I felt his ‘spirit’ forcefully lift out of his body and hover above it; as this occurred I felt myself ‘going up there with him’; a sensation that felt weird, highly fuzzy and totally disconnected. Feeling fearful I pulled back into myself fast. Jack seemed to stay hovered above his body. Gently I said, “Jack I know you are scared but can you come back down from up there and be with me?”

After sometime Jack looked at me with confusion etched on his suddenly crumpled face.

“Where did I go?” he asked.

I explained to him what I had just experienced; we sat silently for some while. Jack then looked at me again and spoke, “I use to do that thing – the thing I just did whenever my father started in on me. He used to call me a stupid cunt, a worthless tosser. It was loathsome. I hated him and I still do … but I couldn’t get away he’d pin me to the wall and just shout at or hit me so I got away by leaving my head. I still do that thing whenever I get afraid in relationships.”

I believe my sudden, organically experienced ‘need to probe ‘ (which I responded to without thought) psychotherapeutically ‘pinned Jack against the wall’ just as his father had done; providing a natural and safe opportunity (because of my ‘attuned presence and witness to the event) for Jack to experience how he had protected himself against his father’s onslaughts. Subsequently Jack disclosed all he could remember about growing up and the hideous, violent experiences he’d had. He also recognised that he did not process much between our sessions and came to the conclusion that he needed to do so. Consequently Jack ‘travelled ‘quickly toward commitment in his love relationship.

Jack ended our alliance six months later when his lover moved in to live with him.

Christine Brown 2014

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