Kathy Marsden - PsychiatristTuesday, October 30, 2012
My Mother's Red Shawl - El Rebozo Colorado
Kathy Marsden - Psychiatrist
The White Couch
After receiving my degree in counseling psychology 20 years ago, I decided to open a private practice in my home. There was only one possible location for the office: my sacred meditation room.
I did not relish the concept of sharing such an intimate space with strangers, especially strangers who might infect it with distressing vibrations. However, I put aside such distasteful thoughts, and took myself off to IKEA to buy some suitable furniture. I decided on a rather austere black swivel chair for myself, and for the prospective clients, a boxy-but-plush white 2-seater couch and matching armchair. To complement the existing décor, I added to my IKEA cart three square silk pillows – two brown, the other crimson madder.
The chair was incidental – extra seating for families, or for acrimonious couples who disdained close proximity with each other. The White Couch was the therapeutic crucible.
I would not have guessed that there were so many ways to approach or occupy a couch. Individuals or couples, each initiated their unique relationship to it.
Some marched directly towards it and sat down without a second glance. Some perched on the edge, back rigid, palms pressed firmly against knees, waiting expectantly for the go-ahead from me to begin their story. Or, conversely, they’d launched into their story before I’d had a chance to seat myself: a clear indication of a recalcitrant client, one who did not acknowledge the therapist’s inherent right to initiate the session, set the tone and define parameters.
Others lingered in the doorway, glancing uneasily from chair to couch to me, perhaps waiting for invitation or suggestion. An alternate variation was to try first the couch, then the chair, then the left side of the couch, then the right. Some settled for the middle, and unwittingly descended into the crack between the two seat cushions.
There were slumpers and slouchers, sprawlers and wrigglers, coffee-spillers and tormenters of the silk accent pillows. Fetal balls bound themselves in tightly crossed arms or huddled in the recesses of coats; the restless sat, stood, paced, turned abruptly and sat again. The angry pounded the arms of the couch, the lamenters drenched it in tears. The freshly clean scented the upholstery with the cloying fragrance of drugstore perfume or dryer balls; the unwashed shed grease, sweat and flecks of mud upon the receptive fabric. Smokers of cigarettes spewed stale odours uniformly throughout the room and my lungs, and the inebriated – well, the inebriated were sent home. Therapy cannot penetrate the miasmas of alcohol.
Despite their foibles, individual clients were controllable. I had learned to interrupt and overrule. Couples, on the other hand, regardless of their level of animosity, had an inscrutable alliance that kept both me and the couch on tenterhooks. We observed uneasily as battles physical, verbal and psychological were enacted before us and upon us. Overt violence was not tolerated, and offenders were – after one warning – dismissed. But there are uncountable levels of covert violence that shattered my composure, threatened the integrity of the couch, and certainly disturbed the tranquility of my meditation room. Upon the departure of such clients, there ensued much dusting, vacuuming, opening of windows, lighting of candles and burning of incense.
Just over a year ago I retired. Despite my grievances, it was a difficult decision. With few exceptions I had great respect and reverence for my clients, who shared their deepest thoughts, feelings and secrets with me. So profound was the meeting of souls that I often sensed a palpable energy flowing between and around us, an energy reminiscent of ocean waves, a sparkling night sky, a warm scented breeze.
These transcendent experiences, too, were absorbed by the couch, and when the last client departed, they were what remained.
Of course I removed all the covers, washed them, and hung them out in the sun to refresh and re-whiten themselves. But no further exorcism was required. The couch abdicated its therapeutic appointment, and offered itself as an abode for meditation.
André De Mondo Wanderer
Colin MacDonald Saxophonist/Composer
Nina Gouveia Yoga Instructor
Stacey Hutton Excercise Physiologist
Colleen Wheeler Actor
Sarah Rodgers Actor, Director,Mother
Timothy Turner - Real Estate Agent
Kiera Hill Dancer
Johnna Wright & Sascha Director/Mother - Son/Dreamer
Decker & Nick Hunt Cat & 19th century amateur
George Bowering Poet
Celia Duthie Gallerist
Linda Lorenzo Mother
Katheryn Petersen Accordionist
Stefanie Denz Artist
Ivette Hernández Actress
Byron Chief-Moon Actor/Dancer
Colin Horricks Doctor
Ian Mulgrew Vancouver Sun Columnist
Jocelyn Morlock Composer
Corinne McConchie Librarian
Rachel Ditor Dramaturg
Patrick Reid Statesman, Flag Designer
Michael Varga CBC Cameraman
Bronwen Marsden Playwright/Actress/Director
David Baines Vancouver Sun Columnist
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward Photographer
Lauren Elizabeth Stewart Student
Sandrine Cassini Dancer/Choreographer
Meredith Kalaman Dancer/Choreographer
Juliya Kate Dominatrix