I haven’t blogged about family therapy so far. I feel a little uneasy about it, these are sessions in which we all share our views and perspectives and I wonder whether should be shared at all.
But it is a fascinating process. First of all, the expectations, When it is first raised, my automatic response is to think, Aha, there IS something wrong with us. I imagine Family Therapy to be akin to surgery, where we will be investigated, prodded, judged until finally the therapy team discover the root cause and remove it, like a triumphant surgeon holding up a bullet in tweezers, removed from a patient. We will then be stitched back together again and sent off into the world, a little fragile, but essentially mended. There are anxieties of course abut what weaknesses this will expose, revealing us in all our dysfunctional glory.
Of course, its nothing like that. We are filmed and watched from behind a two way mirror, but we know this and we meet the team behind the mirror. They comment that we all speak quietly, and I grin at the thought of us all speaking REALLY LOUDLY for the microphones. At the first session we are asked what we would like to do in the sessions and how we want to use them. I panic at this – aren’t they supposed to diagnose us and ask lots of questions. Apparently not, we are in charge. Eventually they ask us what we think about family therapy and what we expect. Ls father, S says he imagines it will help L recover The therapist asks me what I expect. I respond that since L was diagnosed I have wondered if I did something, if my depression or dieting caused L to become il, or perhaps my low self esteem rubbed off or perhaps because L has always looked after others and I have encouraged her to take on too much responsibility even though I thought that would be good and if I did do something wrong then what d we need to change or how do I need to change because it would be unfair to see this as Ls problem to solve herself and we all need to work together. There is a silence and then the therapist says Wow! There is so much in what I say, so much she could ask about that it would fill several sessions. I am embarrassed, I feel I have gone too far, said too much. K and L and I have a shared joke where I look at them and say, “I went too far, didn’t I?” and I have to struggle not to say this.
At one stage L goes behind the screen and listens to us talk about the impact anorexia has had on us. This is her suggestion. S says how much he has enjoyed having quality time at visiting hours when he comes and plays cards with L. I think ‘Idiot’ to myself, but say nothing. K doesn’t really want to talk about this. So the therapist suggest she asks questions instead. She tells K she will ask some random crazy questions and K can answer. K looks at her and says, “What, like, what is the capital of Mongolia?” I laugh, but the therapist looks nonplussed. She realises K is being sarcastic and says that no, for example, a question might be, is K angry with L? Now K looks nonplussed. In no way is this a random crazy question. If someone had asked K and I, what is the most obvious question to ask, this would have been number one.
But it is ok, really. However, glinting at me from the seemingly jumbled pile of family issues is the wreckage of the relationship between Ls father and me. We went through a bitter, acrimonious break up nine years ago, which went on for two years and put the children through hell. Perhaps it is time to confront it. I accept it might not be the cause of L’s illness, but in the process of recoering and putting her life back together, talking about it may help.