Dec. 2nd, 2014

rivka: (her majesty)
Twelve years ago I posted about how important it is for therapists to learn the specific language used by their clients. Back then I saw clients in an inner-city HIV clinic. I needed to know phrases like dope-sick and ready rock, and understand the difference between hustling and tricking, not because my clients didn't understand the more formal language I was trained to use but because

They can tell that I'm not part of their culture, but I still owe it to them to at least show intelligent familiarity with that culture. They can tell I haven't been there, but at least I can convey that I know where there is.


I called that post to mind today. My client population has changed entirely, of course, but the principle is still the same:

"So there's this term, 'off the derech'-"
"Ah, right, and these kids are off the derech."
"Yeah, and they..."

Or, watching a perfectly cheerful baby who was nonetheless repeatedly bouncing his mouth off the front of his mother's shoulder:

"If you need to feed him, go right ahead."
"Well, he ate before we came, so he shouldn't need to..."
"Okay, I just thought he kind of looked like he wanted to nurse. I remember those days."
[Relief spreads across the mother's face. She pulls her breast out of the top of her shirt and then goes back to telling me about her older child's learning issues.]

Very few people go to see a psychologist for specific techniques, or for particular expertise - although those things are also important. You go to a psychologist to feel understood. And so your psychologist should speak your language.

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