When Andrea arrived for her next therapy session, I said to myself, “The longer she stays out of school, the harder it will be for her to go back to school.”
“How will I ever get to the cause of her school phobia?” I wondered.
“How can I help her gain the strength to go back to school unless she tells what’s bothering her?”
Once again, I met with Andrea and her Mom briefly at the start of the session.
Not much had changed since our previous meeting. Andrea’s stomach aches still ceased on school days by lunchtime—and were becoming non-existent on weekends.
She was willing to go back to school at noon—but was missing all her morning classes.
There was a pattern here—what was I missing?
After Andrea’s mom left the room, Andrea initiated conversation for the first time in three weeks. Usually, I had to work hard to engage her in conversation.
“Do you smoke?” she asked eyeing the ashtray on the coffee table in my office.
“No,” I said. This was just a small lie. A white lie.
I sneaked an occasional cigarette at home—hoping my daughters wouldn’t notice. But my smokes were few and far between.
In 1972—a decade after the surgeon general announced the link between smoking and lung cancer—people still smoked. Many of my clients smoked. Ashtrays were still commonplace.
“I hate smoking,” Andrea went on to say.
“Girls in my class get together in the bathroom after lunch to smoke cigarettes. When I first came to this school, they offered me a cigarette. I said ‘No.’”
Andrea’s eyes filled with tears as she spoke. She fought to keep them from spilling over.”
“Now when I go into the bathroom after lunch, they laugh and call me Miss Goody- Goody. I wish I was back at my old school,” she sobbed.
Suddenly, the light went on in my head. I think we’d found the root cause of Andreas’s school phobia.
Andrea and I were about to make some progress.