Docsplainin' -- it's what I do

Docsplainin'--it's what I do.
After all, I'm a doc, aren't I?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Therapeutic Texting

Texting on a keyboard phoneImage via Wikipedia
My young client arrived in tears. Seems she'd not only had problems with a date this week, but also with the friend to whom she'd turned for support. A good deal of these problematic interactions had taken the form of text messages back and forth between the three of them. My client scrolled back to some earlier texts to quote both the date and the friend.

And then, and this is where it gets interesting, while we were talking about all this, she received a text and dashed off a response. I considered asking her not to do that during the session, but what the heck? Here was the very interpersonal issue we were discussing unfolding in the here and now! So I sat back and waited.

Pretty soon, the little phone buzzed with a response, I asked her about it, and so it began: We would talk a bit, she'd send a text or receive a response, and we'd process them. The whole thing was most interesting, and different from work I've done in the past. People have printed out e-mails before and brought them to therapy, and have even brought their laptops in to show me MySpace pages, but this is the first "live" internet interaction I've processed in session as it unfolded. I think it was productive.

Having the actual texts as they unfolded gave us accurate data from her interpersonal world as a basis for discussion of gender roles and expectations--this gave the work a here-and-now immediacy, vs. the there-and-then that is all too often the stuff of psychotherapy. In the course of the hour we were able to establish that she doesn't like confrontation. Smart, perceptive, and funny as hell, she responds with sarcasm when wounded. She is a feminist. She is highly empathic and tries to be supportive to the important people in her world, yet finds herself again and again in non-reciprocal, sexist relationships.

If I have a problem with how the session unfolded, it is that if one has needs that aren't getting met in one's relationships, then the phone is a tremendous distraction from the face-to-face opportunity to get those needs met, available right here, live and in real time, in the therapeutic relationship. So I guess I wouldn't want to do this every week. But today? Cool.
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1 comment:

Wendy Burnett said...

Interesting - cell phone (texting) as therapeutic tool. I know you and I have used cell phones as a tool when there was a mental health emergency, but I'd have never thought of processing the (texting) interaction as it was happening.

Of course, I'm "old," and don't text with my friends constantly, like teenagers tend to do.