"It was beautiful, Val!!!!" said my client as she threw her arms around me for the hugest hug I have ever received from a non-family member or close friend. My client was recounting her 1 Year of Sobriety presentation at an NA meeting. So many wonderful things happened that night and she was absolutely beaming. How could I seriously not hug this lady?
Then yesterday she brought me a slice of cheesecake. "Here, this is for you." This is where those funny grey zones start to make themselves known. "Gee, you must like working with me if you're bringing me cheesecake," I joked. Her response: "Ya think?" Together we marched into the brightest room in the office and she happily munched away at her slice of cake while telling me all about recent events and struggles. Ordinarily I would have been concerned about how to best respond. But feeling like I have a solid grasp on where this client was coming from and how hard she has been working to stay on a path of positive decision-making, I wasn't too worried. The senior clinicians disapproved and recommended the handshake method, but given the circumstances, it all seemed pretty appropriate to me. I have learned that sometimes the most therapeutic thing I can possibly do in this particular setting (community mental health clinic) is to just be a fellow human being while still mindful of what lines must absolutely not be crossed.