Outcomes Offered

■ Learning to care for yourself

■ Looking at what matters most

■ Discovering self-empowering strategies

■ Finding that circumstances can change for the better

Let me tell you about a couple of people I know. Well, one isn't quite a person. He's Philip, my teddy bear, and he's right here. Let me introduce you. The other is Peta, whose parents brought her along to see me, too. Peta and Philip met here in my office and had a conversation that would change Peta's life.

Peta had a big problem: She was hooked on drugs. She knew it was a problem but felt trapped. Most of her friends were into drugs. If she stopped, would she lose her friends and be alone? Her boyfriend, who was a few years older than Peta, had done time for drugs. He supplied her and pushed her around a bit at times. If she stopped, would she lose him and feel even more lonely? Could she cope on her own? A part of her wanted to break free but another part felt powerless to do so.

Trying to quit, and withdraw, was not without problems either. In fact, her family was the big problem here. They were well known in the community and she didn't want to do anything that would hurt them. She didn't want to go to any public clinic for fear of giving them a bad name. So she struggled on, stuck where she didn't want to be, but not seeing a way out.

Peta could be strong at times. She stood up for herself by letting me know that she didn't much like my office. I think she felt confined and uneasy behind a shut door so I asked, "Where would you prefer to talk? What's going to be the most comfortable way for you to work through this?"

She suggested we talk as we walked through a nearby park—so we did. Peta seemed more re laxed and confident outside. It was interesting for me—but more important for her—to see the things that contributed to her feeling happier.

Now, Peta was a pretty smart young woman. She saw the problems of her situation, and knew she needed to change directions, but wasn't sure how. At first, I noticed, she seemed to rely on me to choose which path we took and which direction we went as we walked through the park, so, when we came to an intersection in the path, I would slow down, hesitate a little and allow her to choose her own path. Soon she was deciding which directions she went. Nonetheless, she still felt stuck on the drug issue.

Let me confess, she wasn't the only one. During our walks I had tried every card up my sleeve. Subtly, I had sought to encourage her to make her own choices about what she did. Openly, we discussed the problems of drugs and the drug culture. I gave her homework exercises for taking control over her drug-related behaviors. We explored how she could start to build non-drug friendships and attend a specialty drug-rehabilitation clinic. Nothing seemed to work. Both of us felt frustrated and I didn't know what more I could do. That was when Philip came to the rescue.

Returning to my office after one ofour walks, I looked across at my desk. Philip was sitting there, dressed in his tartan vest, a red bow around his neck and a checked cap on his head. He had been handmade for me by a previous client, a thank-you gift at the end of her therapy. As a result, Philip was very precious. He was my teddy bear and had never previously been out of my possession, so I surprised myself when I took him off the desk and handed him to Peta.

"This is Philip," I said, introducing them to each other. "He would like to spend the week with you. I don't know whether there is something that he has to teach you, whether you may teach him something, or whether there is something that you can learn from each other. I look forward to hearing what you discover."

When Peta returned the next week Philip was wearing his checked cap, red ribbon and tartan vest, but he also wore a pair of red pants. As she cuddled him on her lap, I asked what they had learned from each other.

Peta said, "I realized Philip was very special to you. At first I put him in the lounge room, but then my drug friends came around and I felt uncomfortable for him. They were smoking and I didn't want him polluted with the smell of their dope. I felt embarrassed about them. I didn't want him seeing the sort ofpeople I mixed with, so I moved him to the dressing table in my bedroom. He sat there looking kindly at me each night as I went to sleep and was looking over me when I awakened in the morning. I thought he looked immodest without any pants so I made him this little pair of trousers to wear."

"So, what's the most important thing that you have learned in your time together?" I asked.

Peta burst into tears, and the answer that she gave changed the direction of her life. She agreed to go to a specialty substance-abuse clinic and from there to the agency's rehabilitation farm. She loved being outside, working on the farm. The isolation allowed her several months to separate herself from both drugs and druggie friends. She found that once she was out of sight they didn't care much. They didn't write or visit and had no interest in how she was progressing.

After the farm she got a job in radio and the last I heard from her was a phone call from another state, where she had moved to set up a new life for herself.

So what had made the difference for Peta? What helped her to change when she and I had felt so stuck and powerless? What had taken place in that conversation between Peta and Philip, my teddy bear? When I asked her, tears flowed down her cheeks. She said, "I realized that I cared for him more than I cared for myself."

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