He calls himself "The King." I had spoken to Joe a couple of times by telephone prior to our first session, and he really sounded pretty normal to me. I guess he just neglected to fill me in on that one small detail. I've come into contact with quite a few therapists over the years and I have to admit that many of them were just a little bit different. In fact, I've always secretly wondered if being "different" was some sort of a prerequisite for becoming a therapist. So I guess I really shouldn't have been surprised that this one seemed to think that he was some sort of royalty. I tried really hard to be serious about the entire "King" thing. I really did. I just smiled and told myself, "Hey... it's your story Joe, you can tell it any way you like." Yes, it was pretty clear right from the beginning... Attachment Therapy was going to be very very interesting.
I had done quite a lot of reading about Attachment Therapy prior to our first session, and I really thought that I had a pretty good idea of what to expect when we got there. I think that was one of the main reasons why I was so terrified to walk into Joe's office on that first day. It didn't take me long to discover that Joe had a completely different method of dealing with kids than the usual therapist did. In fact, I had to work really hard not to laugh as I watched this grown man acting like... well... let's just say the entire scene was pretty humorous. I remember at one point thinking that Joe must be a very brave king, as I watched him remove my son's shoes and put one of them up to his mouth. You see... I've been really close to those shoes before... and I had absolutely no desire to put them anywhere near my face. Joe didn't seem to mind though as he sat there having quite the little conversation with my son's shoe... first talking into it... then putting it to his ear to listen closely for the answers. Then, as if that wasn't quite weird enough... he got up and ran across the room attempting to shoot a web out of his fingers. At that point... I think he believed that he was Spiderman. By the way that he was acting, I half expected to see him attempt to climb up the wall of his office. I was pretty relieved to see that he wasn't going to take it quite that far... but something told me that he would have done it if he could have found a way. The one thing that I noticed as I was watching Joe... and wondering why he wasn't even slightly embarrassed to be acting this way in the presence of another adult... was that my son was really taking all of this in. In fact, he was loving it. I guess it was then that I decided that we'd need to come back for at least a few more sessions. If nothing else... Joe was able to make him laugh... and laughing wasn't something that happened all that regularly with my son.
We learned rather quickly that it wasn't always going to be all fun and games in Joe's office. You see, Joe not only thought that he was "The King"... but he also demanded the respect of a king. That was the more complicated part of the therapy, because you see... my son had always seemed to think that he was "The King," and he didn't hesitate to make that known to Joe from the very beginning. Now he finally had somebody besides his mom and dad that was going to be brave enough to tell him differently... and I knew from experience that this wasn't really going to go over all that well with him. If you've ever seen the movie "Lion King" you know what happens when two animals are fighting for the title of "The King." It wasn't a very pretty site, but it was during that first fight for the crown that I discovered just how difficult our job was really going to be. Holding him with Joe was a lot more intense than I ever could have imagined from reading any book. I've always considered myself to be somewhat of a private person, and here I was being forced to share sweat with a stranger while we both fought to restrain what could only be described as a very angry wild animal. It took quite a few different sessions of holding before my little king decided that he was willing to back down and settle for the title of "The Prince."
I... however, was still struggling with my new title of "The Queen." I honestly hated it when Joe gave me that title. I was really having a rough time even viewing myself as being a successful parent... much less taking on the role of being my son's queen... but I managed to deal with it though. I have to admit that I was feeling a little overwhelmed by everything that Joe was saying and doing in the very beginning. Looking back now... I think it was more than likely because my brain was already on overload by the time we started this. All of Joe's talk of counting... holding... strong sitting... one-minute scoldings... practicing... and woodpiles... was really blowing me away. It was pretty obvious that I was going to be shown an entirely new way to parent my son... and I didn't know if I was going to be able to follow through with everything he was telling me to do. I was so tired... and so beaten down... how was I ever going to remember all of this new stuff? I knew I was doomed for failure. I really didn't think that I had the strength to follow through with all of this... yet I also knew that I had to do something. I was losing my child. He was such an awful mess. Our entire family was a terrible mess. So... I knew that I had to at least try.
Sometimes it seemed like no matter how hard I tried... I was always screwing things up... and always saying or doing the wrong things. There were a few times when Joe really lost me in all of his technical lingo about neuro-feedback... times when my son said, or did things that embarrassed me beyond belief... times when I knew that I wasn't exactly the most cooperative person for Joe to deal with... times when I just couldn't handle sitting there watching my son going through all of this anymore ... and many times that I really wanted to just walk away from it all and quit. Yet, Joe continued to patiently guide me back in the right direction... and we always found ourselves coming back for more. I'm not exactly sure when it was that I actually began to relax and trust Joe... but I did learn to trust him, and as much as I sometimes hated that we had to be there... I knew that we "needed" to be there. I knew that what Joe was doing... what he was teaching me to do... was making a difference. I was beginning to see so many changes in my son... so many really good things beginning to happen... so many new successes... and I wanted to see more.
It's hard to believe that it's been almost seven months... and around seventy sessions... since we first began working with "The King." During that time, I've learned a lot more from him than I could ever really manage to put into words... or even onto this page for that matter. I've stood by and watched in total amazement as my son began taking some really enormous steps. Amazingly, the behaviors started to decrease... his communication levels began to increase... and he began to relax and finally allow me the chance to love him. I was just so amazed to see all of these wonderful changes in my son. It was so great to see him smiling everyday... making jokes... and singing with television commercials. He even began drawing pictures of flowers and sailboats... instead of the usual blood and gore illustrations that used to scare me half to death. Yet, the most amazing part of all... is that I actually started to see my son developing a conscience. It was then, that I really started to believe in "The King."
Sometimes I wonder how a parent can ever really begin to thank someone for giving so much of themselves to help save their child. I guess we can write them letters telling them about all of the amazing successes we're having, we can continually thank them for being there for us, we can write... and share special poetry with them, fill the candy jar in their office, and we can even dedicate an entire page on our web site to them... but sometimes it still seems like it falls just a little short of being enough.
He still calls himself "The King." I still smile when he says that... but now... I can honestly say that I can't think of anyone more deserving of carrying that title. As far as I'm concerned... he's definitely earned it.