The Return of Jack

Working with a fourteen year old like Jack who is struggling with a circumscribed problem – in this case, sleep disturbance – can be gratifying work, as a good outcome is highly likely. For situations such as these I often engage the adolescent in relaxation training, deep breathing techniques, and good “sleep hygiene” (such as minimizing caffeine, waking up at the same time each morning to develop a proper sleep schedule, etc.).
After our misunderstanding regarding his classmate and potential stepmother Angie, our relationship had suffered a rift. Thus, the goal of the next session was to “re-establish the therapeutic alliance.” In other words, I had to get the extremely bright and interpersonally sensitive Jack to like me again and have confidence that I can help him. Research shows that a strong therapeutic alliance is the best predictor of a positive outcome in treatment.
“Jack, how about we talk about what happened last time?”
“I’d like that very much. But we should converse as adults,” Jack says, sitting with perfect posture on the therapy couch.
“That would be…lovely,” I say, realizing that if I had Jack’s posture as a teenager, I probably wouldn’t have my current back problems. “Shall I speak first?”


“Actually,” Jack says, “Mom explained your malady to me and I looked up SI Joint on Web MD. How do you intend to mitigate your ailment?”
“Mitigate?”
“Yes,” Jack says. “The SAT’s are coming up in 3 years, and there are some fascinating words related to back injuries. Your pain is my gain!”
“Well good. Let’s not worry about my back, let’s talk about you and I. Do you understand now that I don’t dislike Angie?”
“Yes, I am able to descry that.”
I briefly consider that Jack might actually be the spawn of Miriam and Webster.
“Robert,” Jack adds, a bit anxiously, “there’s something that my mom told me to speak to you about.”
“Great. Do you want to play some UNO while we talk?”
“No, please. Adult dialogue today.”
“Alright then,” I say, somewhat relieved that I don’t have to get down on the floor again. “Go ahead.”
“Well, all of my non-Dungeon and Dragon friends are really interested in girls and sex. I think I like girls but I might like guys too. I find both sexes kind of sexually appealing.”
All “Conversion Counselors” and those suffering from homophobia should stop reading now. You’ll probably enjoy this link much more.
Afraid to move a muscle, lest I let out a scream of back pain that can be re-misinterpreted as judgment, I speak. “So you’re not quite sure of your sexuality yet? Am I getting that right?”
“Yes,” and Jack starts to stare at the floor.
Therapist Rule: Before helping a client work out a problem, help him to understand what the exact nature of the problem is.
“You know Jack, I don’t think that’s anything to be ashamed of, but it looks as though you do.”
“Normally I wouldn’t care, it’s just that everyone else seems so sure.”
“Do you get a lot of peer pressure to like girls, Jack?”
“I wouldn’t say a lot, more like a modicum.”
“Okay, a ‘modicum’ of peer pressure then?”
“Shouldn’t I just know what I am?”
“Actually, I don’t think you should have to know for sure, Jack. It’s okay to be curious. Maybe if we talked about it during our sessions, you might develop a sense of your sexual preference, but I don’t think you should pressure yourself to know right at this moment. And whatever you do decide about your sexual preference is okay, you need to know that.”
“What should I do when my friends ask me about girls and stuff?”
“Well, that sounds like the more pressing issue to discuss, because dealing with peers can be one of the toughest things for guys around your age.”
“It is. Some of them aren’t virgins and want me to have sexual relations as well.”
“Are you considering becoming sexually active?”
Therapist Rule: Because there is no magical age when a person should start having sex, it is important to convey a calm tone of acceptance, indicating that whatever the answer is, the client will not be judged.
“No, I’m not really considering it. Should I be?”
“Do you think you’re ready for that?” Although I have an opinion, it’s generally a good idea to let the client think things through and process his own opinion before hearing mine.
“Um, not really. I don’t know much about sex, actually, other than seeing Knocked Up four times and a few dirty magazines that my friend has.”
“I think you answered your own question then. I know some people your age are active, but that doesn’t mean that you should if you don’t feel ready. Personally, I think 14 is a little young for sex, but that’s not for me to decide, only you can know when the time is right. I can help you figure it out, but you’ll ultimately make the decision.”
“So, instead of playing Uno, are you saying we can talk about s-e-x?”
“If that’s what is on your mind, I don’t see why not.”
“Great! Mom will be so happy. Ever since she and Dad broke up she’s been afraid that she’s going to have to be the one to teach me everything. Now you can do it for her. Robert, you are a sagacious man.”
With the therapeutic alliance restored, I have been promoted from therapist to teaching a 14 year-old boy everything there is to know about sex.
I think I miss UNO already.

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12 Responses to “The Return of Jack”

  1. Wayland says:

    Oh man…you sure do have your hands full. I think Jack is going to be a really cool guy and he’ll probably look up to you a lot and try to ask you questions about your relationships with people. Seriously, I wish you the best of luck with this and look forward to hearing more about Jack and his escapades.

  2. kakutogi says:

    epic comeback. I enjoyed this one

  3. Anonymous says:

    That gay website irritated the hell out of me…
    But your story was fantastic as usual 🙂

  4. Anonymous says:

    best one yet!

  5. Ploin says:

    Being a therapist can sure be awkward

  6. Charles says:

    I can’t believe a kid his age has that kind of vocab. Thats pretty driven to be studying for the SATs so far ahead of time.
    Hopefully he won’t be bringing up angles and volume when you begin to talk about sex.

  7. Chris says:

    Hilarious. I really liked the “your pain is my gain” line. And good luck explaining the mechanics of sex to him; especially if he turns out to be mostly interested in guys.

  8. angery boy says:

    Why in the hell are you the only one that updates on a regular basis on this godforsaken site?

  9. Anonymous says:

    that site for reforming gays is such bullcrap, almost as bad as the scientologist reforming gay camp

  10. Sexuality is such a tricky thing….as it often cuts to the core of most people, yet many have no idea where they stand on the matter, so conflict is not only expected but overwhelming.
    Jack reminds me of an Aspergers client I worked with awhile back. The conversations were painted in a spectrum of colors, though they were also plagued by large black spots of social and peer relations deficits. Questions of sexuality were the tip of the iceberg, though better me to help explore this area than others who’s methods involved ice picks and TNT.
    I’m going to have to find some time to read more about Jack, as you have now piqued my interest.

  11. Anon2 says:

    After that fax the mother sent, I wonder if she’s doesn’t need a little guidance on how to talk about things…

  12. Conrad says:

    wow, I have a 12 year old bud who talks like that but not quite as casually.