Thought Wheel

Ann Chiappetta

Moving On

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Moving On

By Ann Chiappetta


Yesterday was the last session with a long-time client. It’s a common occurrence for clients  in therapy to come and go, many of them skipping out on treatment before completion or because of resistance. This is the nature of the business, the drawback of our profession, and oftentimes we never see them again.


Yesterday, however, was a different kind of leave-taking. The client, whom I will refer to as J, was relocating after a year of counseling. She worked on long-term episodic bouts of anxiety and depression, physical limitations resulting from injuries and moral injuries from years of severe alcoholism and emotional and physical abuse.


She came in highly emotive, often using my guide dog for impromptu pet therapy. My dog, of course, complied and they bonded. Whenever J came in for sessions, Verona jumped up and greeted her like a long lost friend. I think this simple and unremarkable gesture did more for J and any talk therapy ever did or could do. It was unconditional regard from warm dark eyes and a wagging tail.  From then on,  I wondered, if I didn’t have Verona,  would J have done so well in treatment.


In any case, J progressed through the hills and valleys of therapy, first being resistant to transitioning to me from her former therapist and then on to developing trust.  The second six months of treatment was J’s most productive time. She worked to push herself past the depression even when it compromised her ability to leave her home. She came in even when she refused to go out for anything else. She missed merely a handful of sessions. Verona was there for her each time, lying on the floor beside J’s chair, letting J stroke her for however long she needed.  I like to think J did so well due to our  bond, but I know better.


In the last session she did let slip that she took a chance on me because her former therapist added that I had a service dog. Does this effect my self esteem as a counselor? After much soul searching,  and petting Verona, I think I’d rather have a dog as a co-therapist. I mean no disrespect to my former co-therapists and colleagues – it’s just, well, there’s something special about being able to sit down on the floor with a dog and benefit from petting away the stress, sadness, or pain.



I encourage  all my clients to take a moment before starting a session  to greet Verona. Once a client returns, the person becomes one of her “people”, and if we meet them outside the session room, she greets them as if the person was a long lost family member. She does not do this for the general public, only  for those whom she knows from the session room.


She also knows when a client doesn’t want to pet her and with the dignity only a dog possesses, she will go to her mat and take a nap.


On one occaision, she alerted  me when someone entered the center who didn’t belong there by barking twice and going to the back door. How she knew this person didn’t belong is a mystery but it may have saved us from being robbed.


I am telling you this because I never expected a guide dog to be so versatile. I didn’t really know what to expect but I would like to believe I was blessed with an especially intelligent and highly perceptive companion. I sure hope she thinks I’m her equal.







by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 0

Putting on the Annie

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I had a very relaxing weekend with friends. I shed the mom, wife, and therapist personas and put on the Annie. It was wonderfully invigorating and peaceful at the same time. I didn’t do anything earth shattering, either. I hung out, watched movies and spent time with  people who are just like me, who just want to be with others who can talk, laugh, and  be accepting.


If I’m making this sound sappy or overly Pleasantville-ish, it’s because I usually don’t get the chance to connect with the parts of myself that I often overlook due to necessity, responsibility, or in the interest of not giving in to over commitment.


What is the most fulfilling for me during these outings is the normalcy, the similarity to life without dark reminders. The time spent is time well spent . Even Verona had a vacation and that too, for me at least, is part of it.  I spend more time with her than any one person, including my family. I want her to be as relaxed as I am and over the weekend she was a happy girl. She played with the other dog, tried to make friends with the ever elusive kitty, and was spoiled rotten by my hosts. She loved napping in the sun beams, teasing the other dog until he chased her and ran circles around him until her tongue lolled and she got tired. She slept next to me on the bed and didn’t wake up until the morning.  She liked it as much as I did, I know this because she felt right at home.


Back to home, work, chores, and responsibilities.  The next day of Annie will be coming soon.

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