Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Personal Growth

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on November 28, 2011

    Tina, twenty-four, has come twice a week since she was thirteen. We have been through a lot together. Her parents divorced. She had no friends in high school.  She failed out of college. She went back to college and failed again. The third return trip did the job and now she is in law school. She also has friends, male and female, but no romantic relationship. There were many black times between us. She was arrested for tagging. Sigh! She was making really poor decisions about boyfriends; she was beaten a few times by a few of them. She thought about acting in pornography to make extra money. She changed her mind. Looking at her today, one could not guess as to where she came from. Now, she is a parent’s dream child. She is self-supporting (with student loans), and she is responsible and reliable in all areas of her life. She is forward thinking and excited about her future.

    Such change seemed nearly impossible a few years ago. If  you asked me my role in her transformation, I have to confess that I do not know. Sure, I was, and I continue to be a stable, caring, maternal figure in her life. Sure, we talked through her issues such that she began to reflect and not act out. Sure, she developed an observing ego and thereby began to see consequences of her behavior, such that she no longer lived from moment to moment. Sure, I helped her see that people treated her poorly, in part, because she treated herself poorly. Yet, with all that, I am amazed at her personal growth. A year ago, two years ago, I would not have envisioned this rate of change. Maybe her hormones are slowing down. Maybe her brain is finally developing a forebrain that allows her to plan and examine consequences. Maybe I was instrumental in giving her stability when she did not have any other place to turn. I suppose when things go right there is no point in analyzing the secret ingredient. Good news is good news. Still, I want to know. I want to bottle the elixir that helped Tina so I can use it on my other folks. If only my work were that simple.

7 Responses to “Personal Growth”

  1. dale mcabee said

    Maybe consistent empathic attunement did the trick.

  2. Danny said

    Dr Shirah This is yet another one of those amazing stories of marked change. Does someone like her or the people in other similar blogs need to stay in treatment in order to sustain this change? Or is this change permanently internalized whereby one can do their own self analyzing ? thanks for your blogs.

    • Hi Danny,
      Yes, this is an amazing story of resilience and the wonders of development. It is hard to say if her staying in treatment was key to her development. She would tell you that our relationship gave her a parental figure in the midst of a very tumultuous family life. Thanks.

  3. Shelly said

    I understand this is a fictional account but I’m wondering if your doubts in therapy about particular patients are ever evident to them, or do you always have to present a calm, positive front, always faithful and forward-thinking? Whatever it is that you do, obviously it works–look at your success!!!

    • In this fictional account, I articulated my doubts, creating an honest, and at times, exquisitely painful periods in our relationship. I believe that this authenticity helped to build a deep trust, which might be key to her honest examination of her life and her decision making process. Thanks.

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