The Counsellor

By David Gardiner
  • 15 Apr - 21 Apr, 2023
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Fiction

I have been a full-time psychological counsellor for literally longer than I can remember. I work within a number of mental institutions, but, more importantly, out in the streets, in people's workplaces, even in my clients' private homes. Whenever I may happen to be needed, day or night, weekends, Thanksgiving and Christmas included, I always try to be there. Don't I have any private life of my own, you are wondering? Well, the fact is, I don't. I only exist through my clients.

But you don't want to hear about me. It's my clients, past and present, living and dead, who are the interesting ones.

Let me tell you about a typical client interaction. I'll tell you about the day I went to the restaurant with Simon. Now, I need to explain first, I'm not one of those modern pussy-footing therapists who think that it isn't part of their role to offer advice or guidance. The kind who think that it's the client's responsibility to solve his or her own problems. I don't know about you, but that has always struck me as completely silly. I mean, if the client was able to solve his or her own problems then what would be the point of having counsellors at all? It doesn't make sense, does it?

Oh yes. Back to my interaction with Simon. I chose it as an example because it had a successful outcome. I'm afraid that's a bit rare in most psychiatric counselling situations. You've probably heard the old joke that psychiatrists have a cure-rate only slightly better than coroners.

Anyway, getting back to this business with Simon, I suppose I should try to paint the picture for you. He was a long, lanky rather highly-strung young man in his twenties. Jumpy, nervous kind. He had been having problems for a long time: his parents had had to take him out of school, and he had been in and out of residential care all his life. Several of us had tried to work with him, and he had been very receptive at times, but then.... Well, it was the old story. Drugs. Somebody at the day-clinic started supplying him with this stuff, and while he was taking it you just couldn't communicate with him at all. Might as well have been deaf.

That day at the restaurant, though, he had someone new with him. A girl named Celeste, a very sensible girl. She'd been through it all herself, drugs, prostitution, petty crime, a bit of dealing... she knew the score. Oh! Pardon me! No pun intended. A slip of the tongue.

I liked her. I thought she would be good for him.

"That stuff turns you into a zombie," she said to him in the restaurant, "don't believe them. Everything they tell you about it is a lie. It's destroying your mind, Simon. It's taking away everything that makes you who you are."

I agreed with her. I told him so.

"Why can't you leave me alone!" he shouted. They always say things like that. People like Simon never want to be helped, you know. Poor Celeste thought he was talking to her. It gave her quite a shock! People turned around to look, but they managed to cover it up.

Lenny was there as well that day. He's another counsellor who had been working on Simon's case. We had a little case-conference on the spot. Celeste was a new element. We needed to consider how her arrival was going to affect Simon's treatment. We spoke very quietly but Simon still heard us.

"Will you stop talking about me!" he yelled at the top of his voice. Right there, in the crowded restaurant. It was very embarrassing. Celeste jumped up. He only just managed to stop her from leaving.

"I'm sorry. I'm really sorry. I don't know why I did that. I didn't mean it. It had nothing to do with you. I won't do it again." All the same old stuff. They always say the same things. He managed to get her to sit down again but you could see she was scared.

Lenny and I just waited and observed for a while. The people in the restaurant settled down again and Simon and Celeste continued with their meal. When they got to the end they started to talk again, while they were finishing the last of the drink.

"You don't need the drugs," she was telling him, "you've got me now. We're going to see this thing through together. Everything is going to be fine."

"That's right, Simon," I whispered to him, "those drugs are really bad for you. You don't need them. You should listen to Celeste, Simon."

"He's right, Simon," Lenny chipped-in, always a very supportive sort of guy, "Celeste is a very good person. She's too good for you, really.

You've got to make yourself worthy of her."

"Leave me alone," he sort of growled.

"What was that?" said Celeste.

"No. I wasn't talking to you. I think I need a bit of fresh air. A bit of time to get my head together."

"You're right, Simon," I couldn't resist joining in, "this isn't a good place for you. The road outside is good. You can breathe out there. It's not full of all those people at the other tables staring at you. It's cool outside. And there's room to breathe. You can have space to yourself out there. You should leave, Simon. You should go outside. Lenny thinks so too."

At that point Simon jumped up from the table and ran outside. He knocked over his wine and some of it went on Celeste's dress, but it was white wine, so it didn't stain.

Simon ran out through the front door and across the pavement and just kept on running. He didn't see the big green truck. The truck-driver didn't see him either. He felt the thud and saw the spray of blood across his windscreen before he had even realised that someone had run out into the street. There was nothing he could have done. None of the witnesses blamed the truck-driver.

So, as I said, the interaction had a successful outcome. Simon is a counsellor himself now. A very good one, he has a lot of clients and a very high success rate.

The thing about Simon is, he's not just a persuasive talker, he's a good listener as well. Very perceptive. He's able to spot people who are good counsellor material.

You know, gentle reader, you seem very perceptive yourself. There's something about you - you're very easy to talk to.

I think I would like to come and chat to you again.

Maybe tonight, as you lie in your bed, just before you fall asleep. Or tomorrow, in your car, when you're on your way to work.

Or when you're walking in the park. Any time. I don't mind.

I'm always ready for a chat…