Sad News

Unfortunately, my wife’s father, Barry, passed away last Friday.  He had suffered from a number of health problems for a long time, so his death was not unexpected, but of course, this did not make it any less sad.  Barry was a great guy, who, although very quiet, was friendly, polite, and had a great sense of humor.  He was a tremendously skilled athlete and businessman, and a loving father and husband.  I miss him already, and I know that everyone else who knew him feels the same way.

According to Jewish tradition, (my wife and I are both Jewish), the funeral was held within several days of his death, so we left for Philadelphia on Saturday morning, and the funeral was on Sunday.  We returned to Boston yesterday.  It’s been a pretty hectic few days.

Of course, during time like this, my number one priority is to help my wife cope with her loss, which means that school & internship were put on the back burner for a little while.  Once again, my professors and supervisors were understanding about my needs.  My primary supervisor was even kind enough to cancel my appointments for me.

However, now I am back in town, and today is my first day back at Joseph M. Smith Community Health Center, so it’s time for me to get my act together.  I just finished calling eight patients to reschedule the appointments that I missed.  I have about a million emails to respond to as well.

In times like this, questions come up around self-disclosure in therapy.  It is unusual for me to cancel appointments at the last minute, and I imagine my clients may wonder why I had to do so.  What should I tell them?  Is it appropriate to tell my clients that there was a death in my family?  If not, should I make up a different explanation?  Should I try to sidestep the question?

These are, of course, rhetorical questions.  Self-disclosure in therapy is a hot issue, and there are many viewpoints on the subject.  Some would say that if I tell my patients the truth, it would help to foster a sense of empathy.  Others would argue that doing so would inappropriately shift the focus of therapy from the client to the therapist.

What do you think?  As always, comments are welcome.

About sskeenmspp

Hey everyone, my name is Sam Skeen. I’m currently a third year PsyD student. I’m primarily interested in individual therapy with adults and adolescents and assessment with people of all ages. This year, I’m doing my field placement work at Joseph M. Smith Community Health Center, where I am learning to conduct therapy in Spanish. I also have a part time job at MSPP’s Academic Resource Center, where I help other MSPP students complete challenging academic tasks. In my spare time, I like to exercise, cook, mess with my cat (an activity that once screened me as a potential sociopath on a personality test), update my fantasy hockey lineup obsessively, and of course, satiate my Words with Friends addiction.
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5 Responses to Sad News

  1. jgarciamspp says:

    Sam,

    You are most welcome. I hope it all works out for you. Chances are, if you have to tell a client you will deal with it the best way you can in that moment. If, for some reason, you feel later that it you didn’t make the best choice you can take the time to correct it.

    -J

  2. sskeenmspp says:

    Great advice, thanks. So far, it actually hasn’t come up at all. No one has asked for an explanation, and I’d prefer not to bring it up out of the blue.

    Thank you all for sending your support/condolences :)

  3. jgarciamspp says:

    Sam,

    The best advice I can give is that you should always ask yourself the same question anytime you are trying to disclose something to a client: Is it for their benefit or yours?

    That being said, if you apologize in your next appointment with a client for having to previously cancel you don’t necessarily need to give them an explanation. If they ask, your disclosure is up to you. You can say that there was a death in the family. However, if a client would benefit from knowing this information or it will help build trust/rapport then maybe letting them know the truth could be beneficial.

    No matter what you choose to do, I send my condolences. I am sorry for your loss and I am definitely sending you and your family ultra-soothing vibes. :-)

    -J

  4. Alex PR says:

    I extends condolences over what happened to your family.

    Yes, it is in life. Humans are not always in the way of truth. But to apologize for client dissatisfaction, it is a wonderful thing. good luck

  5. Egie Shandie says:

    I am sorry about the sad plight of your family.
    Explain what actually happens, maybe people will understand the promises that you do not keep. Good luck and all the fine

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