I have this parakeet named Larry Bird. Larry is my anger management therapist.
The product of tens of thousands of years of evolution, Larry is exquisitely sensitive to "vibes" in the flock. He always knows what's going on in a session and is an active participant in most. When I am doing relaxation exercises or hypnosis, he never makes a sound. He burbles along with conversation when my client and I are just talking. But when someone is angry, he SCREECHES. EEK! EEK!
I adopted Larry from a client a few years ago. He didn't have a name, and he came in a tiny cage, on a Friday afternoon. And he was mad as hell about it.
When I came in the following Monday morning, he had thrown seed all over the room. I was amazed at how far (up to 8 feet!) a bird weighing barely two ounces could pitch a seed. Hence the name. My 9 a.m. client suggested we name him after a baseball pitcher, but I couldn't think of one I liked right off. And besides, he was wearing Celtic colors.
Having anger issues of his own, Larry spent most of his first six months at the office EEK-EEKING at the top of his lungs. The office manager could hear him at the other end of the suite, even with my door closed, and used to come knock on my door during sessions and offer to take him out. He drove one client into a neighboring office for her sessions: She couldn't stand him.
But eventually he settled down. He's a happy bird now, and when he EEK!s it's invariably because a client is angry down deep inside and not acknowledging it. It didn't take long to see the pattern. He knows before I do (and about half the time, before the client does!) that there is anger in the room and he gets agitated--there's trouble in the flock, and he responds.
I have learned to ask, as soon as Larry starts in, "What are you feeling?" Sometimes I get "mad," but sometimes I get "nothing," or "I don't know." I tell teen clients straight out that Larry is my Mad Meter and that he is never wrong: I have had kids be talking along in a session, Larry cranks up, and the kid looks over at the cage and says, "I know, I know--I'm ANGRY!"
One day he began EEKing halfway into a session, and I was dead certain that my client was not angry. We were not talking about anything that could possibly piss her off. She was expressing affect, and it was completely incompatible with anger. So I sat and wondered, "Could it be me?" And sure enough, it was. I was irritated by something going on in the office, outside of the session. So I took a deep breath, let my whole body relax as I exhaled, and Larry shut up instantly.
Amazing, that bird.