Julie and David are graduate students completing an internship in a MS in Mental Health Counseling training program. They are working as interns for an outpatient counseling center that specializes in the treatment of children. Julie has been shadowing a clinician performing forensic evaluations and conducting individual therapy with young children who have been physically and sexually abused. David has been performing psycho social assessments and facilitating groups with domestically violent families. Julie and David are participating in triadic supervision as a requirement for their internship. Julie begins to cry easily during supervision when reviewing their clinical cases. Despite efforts to conceal her emotion, Julie’s supervisor would frequently inquire about her affective state. At first, Julie dismissed her behavior claiming she “just didn’t feel good” and was hesitant to share her anguish. Julie’s supervisor fostered a safe environment and persisted in questioning her about her tearfulness and reactivity to difficult cases. Eventually, Julie began to discuss her feelings of despair particularly about working with children who have been abused or neglected. She went on to explain that the stories she was hearing in supervision made her feel overwhelmed that no matter what setting or population she went to work for, she feared that counseling work is filled with only darkness and hopelessness. She described excessive worry and concern about the well-being and future of the children with whom she works. She expresses anger and resentment towards the parents that did not protect the children, the judges that send kids back into homes with abusive parents, and clinical supervisors that she felt were not providing adequate care. Although Julie could not identify any actual inappropriate events, she believed the children deserved better care. Julie reported nightly sleep disturbance and avoidance of all social activity. It became clear to Julie’s supervisor and to Julie’s colleague that she was emotionally and physically exhausted and was absorbing client pain. David watches and listens impassively as Julie describes her plight. He started out his internship very energized by the opportunity to help families break the cycle of abuse. He initially received many compliments from the clients and staff for his insight and empathy. As time passed, David begins to question the quality of his own marital relationship. After hearing about stories of abuse, David began to question whether his most intimate relationship had a passive aggressive pattern of abuse. Rather than returning home after work, David becomes increasingly vigilant about personal space and boundaries. He became emotionally distant from his wife and his colleagues. During supervision, David implies that all relationships are at risk for exploitation and abuse. He remarks that he used to be uninformed but now he “knows better.” As the supervisor talks with David, it becomes evident that he is greatly influenced by the emotional and physical condition of his clients and their stories of abuse. In response, David is struggling with trust and intimacy, has become suspicious of people, and has developed a self-protective stance.
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