I had planned to do a “one-year reflection” type of post this week, but an unexpected circumstance has been making it difficult to reflect back on the past year. That post will be slightly delayed.
It was a Thursday morning like any other. Swipe in, head to my office, check emails, grab charts for the day. As I grab the pile of green folders, the support staff coordinator says hi and shares some unsettling news.
“Hey, do you remember so-and-so? She died.”
It was the end of the day at my internship, and one of the patients was discharging. At some time during one’s final wrap-up group, the concept of acknowledging each other outside of the treatment setting comes up. As confidentiality ethics and laws (thanks HIPPA) stipulate that a therapist cannot disclose any information about a particular patient without their consent, I always go into the standard, “if you see us in real life, say hi because we can’t legally say hi to you first” spiel.
Whenever I have given this speech, it is usually met with one of three responses. One is the eye roll/blank stare/”there’s no way in hell I’m saying hi to you if I run into you” glare. As angry as I would expect to be with this response, I can legitimately appreciate the honesty of these individuals, as I’ve struggled to fully internalize the fact that clients lie (another post for another time). The second is something along the lines of, “oh my goodness of course I’ll say hi if I see any of you!” Some have been stated genuinely, where others have been as phony as…a telephone? And then there’s the hesitant, “if I say hi, will you say you’re my [teacher/family friend/distant cousin/classmate/circus performer I met once]?”