Ginger Schenck's astute observations - about Kathy's profound beliefs of responsibility for other people - go right to the heart of this case. Yes, those were Kathy's insights about her father being competitive and her mother feeling inferior with regard to Kathy's achievements. Kathy came into therapy with a great deal of insight that was quite useful to her. But because her beliefs were so deep, she needed more than insight to help her overcome them. What she needed in therapy was to enact those beliefs in relation to me.
One good example of this is described above in "Less Compressed Clues." Kathy is talking about why it's hard for her to focus on her goals to be in the spotlight and she is describing one very important reason: her parents were threatened by her achievements. So WHILE she is expressing her insights about her parents, she is ENACTING IN THE THERAPY her fear that I too will be threatened by her achievements. She is enacting this fear by censoring some of the achievements of the adolescents period, but I don't know about this yet. In fact, I don't even know that she is enacting this fear in the treatment. I'm just sitting there listening for clues to make this puzzle make sense. So she starts to drop some big crumbs: she's always wanted to be a writer, but her teachers discouraged her; there is a book of short stories that she has written. So I pick up the clues and ask to read the stories. The stories clearly demonstrate that she is a gifted writer. The next session Kathy begins by once again forgetting her goals and then proceeds to get into a fight with me about how she has more accomplishments than most people in the world and that it's enough already! She argues quite aggressively that wanting to focus on her growth is selfish and greedy. She provokes me to FIGHT FOR HER RIGHT to continue her development. I have to hit her over the head with a very aggressive stance that is stronger than her aggressive stance against herself. I think I forgot to mention this in "Less Compressed Clues," but I said to her at the end of that hour something like, "Your fears of your talents harming people are so severe that you require me not only to FIND your hidden achievements, but also to ARGUE FEROCIOUSLY for the cultivation of those achievements." That's when she left the hour saying, "Thank you for your aggressive stand." Kathy needed me to fight for her. She had insight and it did help her, but her fears of harming people were truly profound. If I had ignored the stories, Kathy could have used that as more evidence (in addition to her profound belief) that I was threatened by her talent. Since I not only sought out the stories, but also fought against her self-denigration, she got a very clear message that I was NOT THREATENED by her achievements, but more that I actually thoroughly enjoyed them. It was only after she felt safe with my interest that she could proudly report the real list of achievements during adolescence - which, by the way, included an award from the Red Cross for the bilingual rescue of some hispanic people who were injured in a fire somewhere.
I'm glad that my describing my thought processes is helpful in bringing the therapeutic process to life and I will be happy to share those thoughts with you as we proceed. I, myself, don't use genograms and I did not with Kathy. I do believe that that information, however, is important. I prefer to let that data unfold in the patient's process. I try to follow the patient in the order and content she wants. That way SHE leads me, rather than ME leading her. I find that if I let her lead me, she is more likely to naturally drop clues of what she needs. I hope you will be able to see this as the case proceeds. For example, Kathy needed to find out if I would be threatened by her achievements before she delved more deeply into some of the more painful issues of her life - like her brother's death. She and I accomplished this piece of work at the end of Section II of the presentation. You will notice that then, in Section III, Kathy immediately delves into the next really important pieces of the puzzle: her wish to reclaim the "special" times of her life, her brother's death, and the abortions. Explorations of these important issues lead to more information about Kathy's family of origin.
You are quite right about my respect for Kathy and that is why I present the case in the manner I do - to let you see her process as it unfolded for me in the treatment. Yes, I could have summarized the family history (and I can answer questions about the history later, so please ask then if you're still interested) but I learned so much from this patient that I thought presenting her as she presented herself would teach more about the therapeutic process than any summary I could write. So I encourage you to ask for more detail whenever you're interested. Kathy's story is long, deep, and complex. In trying to present it all to you, I have summarized some areas where we can easily look more closely whenever you ask. Thanks so much for your comments.