PSYCHOTHERAPY BEYOND THE FRINGE, continued
An Employment Ploy
Nicole presented an easy phobia to treat. She was referred for agoraphobia. The ‘diagnosis’ sounds impressive to the patient, as it is supposed to. It really means that the person is afraid of wide open spaces. But the term is used to cover a great variety of people’s reactions to going anywhere. Nicole arrived for her first interview in a tasteful and neat business suit, wonderfully groomed and looking very attractive. She told Felicity that, by her late twenties, she had completed university and had spent a few years at home nursing her ailing parents. They had both died recently, and she was now ready to enter the work force. Felicity asked her to tell him about the problem for which she was seeking help. She said she was suffering from ‘agoraphobia’. Felicity asked her again what the problem was. She said that she wanted to get out and get herself a job but she was unable to do so because of her agoraphobia. Felicity asked her if she would please show him her agoraphobia. She laughed nervously at this crazy request, perhaps thinking he was being a bit sexually provocative. She told him it wasn’t anything she could show him. So he asked how she knew she had this ‘condition’ if she couldn’t see it or show it to him.
Nicole told Felicity that she knew she had the condition because her doctor had told her she had it. Felicity may have sounded a bit sarcastic. “Oh,” he said, “then it is your doctor I should be treating if he’s the one experiencing the condition.” She looked at Felicity as if he was bent out of shape, decided he must be kidding and broke into a burst of charming laughter. Felicity joined the mirth, but then affirmed that he was serious. He said he had never seen anything called ‘agoraphobia’ before, even although he was a specialist in the area of phobias. So he wondered how she knew she had the condition.