Title: My First Clients (1/1)
Author: Sandy S.
Disclaimer: All belongs to Joss and UPN. I own nothing.
Spoilers: Set a few years in the future.
Summary: Buffy takes Spike to therapy at the University of Sunnydale Psychology Clinic. A little ficlet. Therapist-in-training's POV.
Dedication: For Jennifer who wanted me to write a story in which Spike and Buffy go to couples counseling! :o)
Author's Note: 1) This is so AU that it would never happen! 2) Although I've done individual counseling before, I am not a licensed psychologist (I'm still a student), and this story is merely meant to be for fun and not an accurate depiction of the psychotherapy process. Also, I'm writing a therapist who makes lots of mistakes. 3) Again, this was a bit challenging for me to write, so bear with the inaccuracies. ;o) 4) This story is not in the same verse as "Group Therapy, Anyone?"
My First Clients
When a person is studying to be a psychologist, he or she is usually quite nervous before their first session with a new client. One hopes for a smooth, easy session in which the client or clients merely have mild depression or an adjustment disorder. Of course, my first clients were not the least bit easy to handle.
When clients arrived to the Clinic for the first time, they generally completed some initial paperwork, which went over basic demographic information like name, birthdate, social security number, address, etcetera. The issue of confidentiality of information shared in the sessions was covered. In addition, clients wrote a few sentences about their history of psychotherapy and their current difficulties.
Since I'm a student, there was also a policy about session observation by supervisors. Two supervisors watched each new therapist's sessions behind a two-way mirror and often phoned into the session room with suggestions for the therapist during the session.
The receptionist was responsible for handling the initial paperwork and bringing the papers to me when they are filled out, and couples usually completed information on one set of papers.
Here was a list of the most interesting information I received from my first couple, which I've edited for the purposes of confidentiality and with my own comments:
Name:Buffy S., Spike
Age:Buffy S.: 21. Spike: 130
(Huh??? He probably just accidentally wrote a one on the front.)
Social Security Number:Buffy S.: 013-234-2658. Spike: none
(Illegal alien? Here on visa?)
Address:Buffy S.: Can't put her address. Spike: A closet.
(Sarcasm about the size of his apartment? Oh, well, at least, I have one valid address where I can send correspondence.)
Place of employment:Buffy S.: Sunnydale High School, part time. Spike: Left blank.
Who referred you?Buffy S.: Willow R. Spike: I don't really want to be here; I just got dragged here by the infernal Slayer.
(What the heck is he talking about?)
What kinds of problems are you having that you want help with?Buffy S.: Spike and I are having trouble with our relationship. All we do is fight. Spike: Nothing.
Check the symptoms below that you are currently experiencing:Buffy S.: depressed, isolated, insomnia, anxiety, weight loss. Spike: guilt, there's not anything on here that describes it.
Have you sought therapy previously and if so, when, for how long, and for what?Buffy S.: Well, I did see a guidance counselor in school a few times. Spike: Hell, no!
(He doesn't sound happy to be here.)
What substances are you currently using (include medications)?Buffy S.: nothing, well, maybe caffeine. Spike: alcohol.
What types of physical/health problems are you currently experiencing?Buffy S.: None. I hardly ever get sick. Spike: Well, there is my little allergy to sunlight. I burn really easily.
(Allergy to the sun? I've heard of that. My cousin breaks out in hives every time she goes outside during the day in direct sunlight.)
Anything else you want us to know?Buffy S.: I'm kind of short on cash, so I'm hoping we can work out a reasonable fee.
(No problem. We work on a sliding scale. I'm sure the receptionist covered this one.)
Okay, so there were some odd things on the paperwork. I could always ask for an explanation, and if I had time in session, I planned on assessing Spike's current drug and alcohol use.
After making certain my supervisors were ready, I trudged down the hall toward the waiting room with my heart hammering in my chest. Taking a deep breath and saying a little prayer for support, I opened the door with a confidence I was only pretending to have.
No one else was in the waiting area, so I assumed my couple was the pair by the fish tanks. The girl. . . er, woman, was petite and tan with shoulder-length blond hair. She wore a flowered dress and rose with a smile and sparkling green eyes when I approached. The man was slouched in the seat with his legs wide, appearing thoroughly bored. I caught a glimpse of pale skin and bleached hair. He looked like a punk reject. I was definitely assessing for substance use. I wondered what a wholesome young woman like Buffy was doing with him until. . .
"Spike," the young woman, Buffy, hissed and poked the man on the thigh.
He glanced up at her, and then, I understood what she saw in him. His blue eyes swirled with what could only be called love for her, and he gazed upon her as if she were an angel. When she glared down at him, however, he seemed to shut down and retreat.
I decided to take charge. "Hi, I'm Meagan Talbert, but you can call me Meagan. I'm going to be your therapist."
Buffy grasped my hand warmly and with a firmness I did not expect from such a tiny woman. "I'm Buffy. It's nice to meet you. And this is Spike."
Spike reluctantly rose and took my hand as well, and I shivered from the icy cold. He must have circulation problems.
I smiled back at Buffy and led them toward the door. "Follow me."
I led them down the dimly lit hall to the room I've carefully prepared for the couple with a sofa facing the two-way mirror and my less-comfortable chair arranged adjacent to the mirror and close to the door. The phone was situated on a tiny stand next to my chair, and I stood aside to let them enter first.
Buffy sat gracefully on the edge of the plush sofa, but to my dismay, Spike immediately took my chair next to the phone. Just great. He was already being difficult.
"Um," I started, "I actually need to take that chair because as you read on the paperwork, my supervisors may occasionally call in during the session. It's all part of giving you the best possible treatment."
Spike gave Buffy a look with both eyebrows raised, and he almost imperceptibly tilted his head toward the two-way mirror.
Something dawned on Buffy. "Um. Spike. . . he needs to sit in a chair like that because his back is bad from. . ."
Her voice died off, and Spike picked up for her with a decidedly British accent, making me decide on the visa option, "From that accident a few years ago in the church."
"In the church?" Now that tidbit had me curious.
He smirked at me. "Yeah. An organ fell on me. I was parlay. . . badly hurt for a while."
"An organ? Is that why you don't work?" I cringed a bit because I realize that he left the question blank but didn't necessarily not work.
Buffy cleared her throat, and Spike glanced at her a bit guiltily. "Yeah, that's why I don't work." I was confused about what he was doing in the United States on visa, but then, that also might be a false assumption. "And that was before I started. . . um, dating Buffy, of course." He sat down without much care, and part of me wondered what part of the story he was leaving out.
Buffy continued, "And um. . . the doctor said that he can't sit. . . except on chairs with sturdy backs." She set her mouth at his posture, and he scrambled to straighten up.
Inwardly, I sighed and settled next to Buffy on the sofa. "You don't mind answering the phone if it rings during the session, do you?"
Spike shrugged in what I assumed was agreement.
I briefly summarized the Clinic policy and rules and began with the typical first question, "So, what brings you here today?"
Spike and Buffy spoke at the same time.
"She has issues about her ex-boyfriends."
"We fight all the time about everything."
They both looked at each other and protested simultaneously, "Do not!"
I must have appeared as dumbfounded as I felt because the phone rang.
Spike answered, "Hello. She's right here. May I ask who's speaking? Oh, yeah. Hang on."
He handed the phone to me, the cord stretching taut, and I resisted the urge to snatch the receiver from him. My supervisors wanted me to get a relationship history. I guessed they were worried about how I might handle asking about the arguments, so they were giving me something with slightly more structure. Relationship history was important in couples' therapy anyway.
"I'd like to get a history of your previous long-term relationships. It will help me understand your current problems. Let's start with you, Buffy."
"Well, first there was Angel. . ." she began.
"Poofter," Spike interrupted, slouching back and causing me to further doubt their story about his back.
I gave him a pointed stare.
"What? He was. . . still is."
"It's Buffy's turn. Let her talk."
The phone rang again. And after a similar routine, Spike passed me the phone. My supervisors asked me to avoid alienating Spike.
"Go ahead, Buffy," I encouraged.
"Okay. Well, I was sixteen, and he and I dated for a while. We were really happy." Spike hmphed. "And then, we made love, and everything changed."
"He changed?" I asked, trying to let the empathy show on my face.
"He went all soulless on you, didn't he, pet?" Spike intruded again.
Buffy's eyes filled with tears. "Yeah, he started stalking me and my friends and family. It was really scary."
"Wow. That must have been really hard."
"And what about what he did to me?" Spike demanded.
I glanced at the pale man. "You knew him, too?"
"Of course, I knew him! Known him for over a century now." A century? Spike sure was prone to exaggeration. "We're bloody related. . . sometimes I can't stand that fact."
"You're related?" How odd for Buffy to date two men from the same family. Angel sounded terrible, and Spike was just incorrigible.
"Yeah, and when he broke up with Buffy, he came back and stole Drusilla from me!" His tone was bitter and angry.
"He stole your girlfriend?"
"Yeah! After we dated for over a hundred years!"
Suddenly, I put two and two together and made a decision. I bounced off the couch eagerly, standing with my back to the mirror where I knew my supervisors sat. "It sounds like you've both had some bad experiences with this. . . Angel person. Sounds like you both have unresolved issues related to him, so I want you to pretend he's here in this room right now."
"What?!" Spike shouted. I winced, and he continued, "Like he hasn't blown everything else for me already. I try not to think about him, much less pretend he's in the bloody room with me!"
Buffy sniffed. "I want to try." She faced the empty space on the couch, smiling. "Hi, Angel." She began talking with him like he was really present, catching him up what had happened in the last few years.
Spike shot me a glance that would have killed me on the spot if I hadn't turned away. "Now, see. That's why I don't want him in the same room as me!"
The phone started ringing shrilly.
Buffy stopped talking.
Spike ceased fuming.
I mentally wrung my hands.
Spike made the first move, gathered the phone up in one hand, and jerked the cord out of the wall, flinging it across the room. Parts flew as the machine smashed into a million pieces.
Rote memory took over, and I spoke before I thought, "A-are you thinking that you m-might want to hurt somebody? Can you contract to let someone know that you're thinking about hurting someone before you do anything like that?"
Spike rolled his eyes. "Bloody hell, woman, what do you think?"
I did the one thing that I knew to do. . . .
I burst into tears.
Before I knew what was happening, a strong arm circled my shoulder. Spike guided me to the sofa. Buffy's hand found my forearm, and a tissue was pressed into my hand.
Spike's voice was low and husky, "I'm sorry, pet. I didn't mean to upset you like that. I just lost my temper. I know you're just trying to help us."
"Yes, his bark is much worse than his bite." Buffy sent Spike a tender look. "But, he doesn't mean it."
Mortified that my clients were comforting me, I sprang from my seat and fled the therapy room. My supervisors were waiting for me. After I gathered my wits, I went back into the therapy room prepared to apologize profusely.
To say what I saw shocked me would be an understatement.
Spike had returned to the chair by the overturned phone stand. Buffy was perched on his lap, kissing him thoroughly. They broke apart when they sensed my presence.
Spike grinned at me. "Thanks, doc."
"I-I'm not a doctor" was the only thing I could stutter.
They got to their feet and breezed past me, leaving me with my mouth hanging open. Their hands were clasped together, and they both somehow seemed lighter, happier.
"We'll see you next week!" Buffy called back. "Same time?"
Five minutes after they left, I remembered that I'd forgotten to ask Spike about drug and alcohol use but also recalled that Spike had no reflection in the mirror.