By A. Hosack, P. Berman & K. Hecht
If I share this with Dr. Berman it will help, if I share this it will help, if I share this it will help! Please…
Shelly is watching Davy so that Claire and the Carsons can go to see Dr. Berman together. The three of them were going try and talk about Larry. Claire also wanted to reassure them that she wasn’t hiding anything from them anymore. She hoped meeting with Dr. Berman would make that white strained look disappear from the Carsons’ faces.
Dr. Berman had agreed to a family session without asking Claire why; Claire was grateful to avoid questioning. She didn’t know how she was going to bring up Larry. She needed more time to think it through; it was too late. She heard Dr. Berman call her name. Claire looked up and saw the Carsons were already standing next to Dr. Berman, waiting for her. She jumped up and they walked together into the consultation room.
I better just spit it out. Say it. Not worry about the words. Get it out. Get it out. Open your mouth…
The words flooded out. “Dr. Berman, I have been writing to Larry since he was first sent to prison. I didn’t tell anyone about it. I knew the Carsons consider Larry all bad and would be against me writing him. If they had tried to stop me, I don’t know what would happen so I just …avoiding it by not telling them (2 minute-silence). Larry did hurt me many times and Davy. But he isn’t all bad. I need everyone’s help figuring out what to do now that Larry has written me back.”
Dr. Berman notices that the Carsons are looking down in their laps. They appear shrunken somehow, not the strong foster parents she knew they were. They had an empty look that was hard to describe. It might help if she started the conversation. “Claire, I appreciate you telling me this now (pause). I know it must be taking a lot of courage for you to tell me because you knew I would be shocked to hear it.”
The Carsons heads came up and they were both looking at Dr. Berman; so, Claire hadn’t told her either. Dr. Berman caught Mrs. Carson’s gaze and asked, “What was your reaction to the news?” (1-minute pause) “Mrs. Carson, I see that your face is white, and you have begun wringing your hands. (pause) You don’t have to rush but can you tell us about your reaction to what Claire has been doing?”
It began to come out. “I am just feeling terrified and helpless. I am so afraid of what Larry might do to Claire and Davy when he gets out of prison. She testified against him in court. He was furious and he has already hurt her so badly-physically and emotionally. Claire,” she said, looking directly in her foster-daughter’s eyes, “Larry hit you so hard last time half of your face turned black and blue; his punch hurt your eye and gave you migraines.”
Mr. Carson took Mrs. Carson’s hand and squeezed it. He then said, “He didn’t just hurt you Claire. He attacked you in front of Davy. Do you remember the nightmares Davy had for a week?” Claire was crying but saying that Davy probably had forgotten all about that now. Dr. Berman handed her the tissue box before saying to the Carsons, “You both have many painful memories of what Larry did to Claire.”
Mrs. Carson said, “Claire, you’re right. Davy isn’t having nightmares any more but more bad things could happen later. He saw a grown man losing all emotional control and going from someone who was supposed to care for his mom to someone who was hurting her. (1-minute pause) We are all trying to help Davy learn self-control. What will he think if he sees us welcoming Larry, who he sees has none?”
“It just happened once!” Claire moaned. Dr. Berman said, “It happened once, so far…that’s what the Carsons are worried about. What did you say Davy tried to do when Larry attacked You?” (1-minute pause) Claire said slowly, “He tried to get between me, and Larry and Larry shoved him away.” “It was emotionally abusive for Davy to watch his mother being harmed,” Dr. Berman said, “how might Davy act if he sees Larry again and you are excited Larry has shown up?” (2-minute pause)
“Claire, how do you feel right now as I mention that your mother called you a waste of space?” Dr. Berman asked. Claire turned white at these words. “Claire, you just showed in your body the pain your mother caused, from emotional abuse. Even though it doesn’t leave physical marks, don’t underestimate the harm that it can cause.”
The American Psychological Association calls emotional abuse the “unseen wounds.” It has been found to cause many types of emotional disturbance in adulthood. To read more about it go to: https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2014/10/psychological-abuse