2009-10-12: In Treatment

Starring: Joel and Sydney


Date: October 12, 2009


Joel's parents book him a therapy appointment that is unknown to him. He shows up and manages to question the shrink.

"In Treatment"

Hope Hearth Distress Centre

As children grow up it's only natural that there is some distance gained from the parents. Slowly they change as time passes, and at times that change can seem fairly strong when a parent has only a limited window within which to view their child. So it must have seemed to Janet and William, Joel's parents. It must have felt like only yesterday that he was a directionless slacker holding down a retail job with little feeling towards upward mobility, then in the next instant… entirely different. So it occured over the course of a year, to them it may have seemed rather abrupt. He wasn't calling as much, wasn't coming around as much, and was even doing his own laundry. It clearly must be drugs, his way of coping with his mother's condition… or something.
So an appointment was arranged without his knowing. It was played off as just doctor's needing to talk to him about his history and his parent's history, a few things that are technicalities needing cleared up. So like a dutiful son he made the trek. Arriving in a non-descript black sedan and wandering up to the office with an easy step, Joel shows up. Not quite the image of the slacker that his parents depicted, though not exactly a business type. He's wearing slacks, black dress shirt, a leather jacket… though he does have on some Chuck Taylor sneakers that don't go with his ensemble a'tall.

Fortunately, the waiting room of Hope Hearth looks similar to that of a doctor's office. It even contains the same bad magazines. Several rooms are connected to the waiting area, one of which is Sydney's office. Her office is pretty typical of any therapist. A couch for the client, a standard office chair for the therapist and selves of books on the walls. Several posters of known cartoon characters line some of the walls, including Darkwing Duck, Fred Flinstone, and Nemo (from Finding Nemo)—designed to make children particularly comfortable in this office.
Sydney sits in her office, drying her eyes with a tissue. Quickly she checks her makeup in her compact, and ensures her mascara hasn't run. With a sniff, she stands to her feet and smoothes her skirt. She's dressed in a grey pencil skirt and a white dress shirt and a pair of stylish black high heels. Her hair is wavy, and her eyes particularly bright today. After clearing her throat, she pokes her head out of the door first and then actually steps out of the room, "Joel Nelson?" She calls the name generally and with some apprehension. She normally doesn't take referrals from family members, but made an exception in this case.

It's clear he'd been still getting used to the room itself, still considering the decor and the choice of various bits of furniture and media. He'd gone so far as to take a seat in the corner of the room, and from there he looked around. At the call of his name he looked up, his gaze falling upon her. It's just a flicker of trepidation, a hint of wariness in his manner as he lifts his hand and gives a small nod, "That's me."
He rises, and the first impression one might get from him is a certain hazy, lazy, sleepy aspect to him as if he was perpetually just having woken up. But for someone with her perception it's clear that it's perhaps someone trying to see everything at once instead of letting himself focus on one particular thing. When his eyes do finally focus on her, the shift is fairly strong. His easy gaze is intense, though his countenance is friendly. "I think I'm in the right place."

As a perceptive person, Sydney quickly scans, Joel's appearance, all the while attempting to maintain that same warm, inviting smile despite Joel's apparent trepidation. She takes a deep breath and breathes through her own slight regret at taking the appointment. "Sydney Falkland," she extends her hand for him to shake. "And I as long as you're Joel Nelson, you seem to be in the right place." She pauses and then tacks on, "Your parents made this appointment, correct?" She motions for him to actually enter her office.

"Mmmm, yeah." Her hand is accepted with that same measure of wariness. Not necessarily of her as the case may be, but of the moment, the social aspects. She might get the hint the whole fish out of water situation might not be unfamiliar to him and is accentuated by this meeting. His handshake is firm, not aggressive, and broken easily when she grants the first sign of drawing back.

Even before she murmurs the question, his attention turns to her room again, and something strange might reach her thoughts. 'Angles'. Everything to him seems to be composed of angles, distance, measuring, gauging. It's perhaps subconcious on his part, but it's always going on behind his eyes. He looks around the room and answers, "I believe so." Some hesitation in that answer, as if he doesn't ever like speaking in absolutes that he isn't entirely sure about. He looks back, "Something to do with… you know," His mother's breast cancer, though she's recovering one might get the feeling he's eternally looking for the other shoe to drop.

Studying Joel's eyes, Sydney holds out her hand towards the couch to try to persuade Joel to take a seat, she furrows her eyebrows as she sits in her beloved seat, and manages to sit with both feet planted on the floor. Her arms rest at her side. Her entire posture is open. That's what she's been trained to do.
She reaches for a notepad that's sitting on her bookshelf. "I know." She smiles warmly, and then counters like a good therapist, "Why do you think we're here though?"

There's a furrowing of his brows as he looks between her and the couch, then he seems to acquiesce with a nod. A few steps carry him over towards the couch and anyone else probably wouldn't notice that hitch in his step as if he was considering not taking it, or pressing for something else. It's a bare moment, but then he turns and sits down. Just on its edge. He leans forwards, resting his elbows on his knees and lacing his fingers together. Looking across the way he meets her gaze and says, "Well, family preparation for bad news or something? Or coping with loss things, I dunno."

"Are you expecting bad news, Joel?" Sydney asks as she leans forward in her seat slightly. The side of her lips curl slightly upwards, but only for a second before she asks another question, "Has life been particularly difficult lately?"

There's a faint tilt of his head, a narrowing of his eyes. She can almost feel the waves of suspicion and wariness wafting from him. The corner of his mouth curls wry and he counters the questions with some of his own. "This is about me then?" Of course he doesn't entirely wait for her answer before he remembers his 'manners' and instead answers the queries she put to him. "Always best to expect bad news and all that. But ehn, life's always difficult. Not particularly so, though." She can perhaps sense a hint of distraction there, as if a few words further were thought of but unspoken.

In a very normal therapist fashion, Sydney jots down a couple of notes before attempting to meet Joel's gaze. She considers for a minute before answering him, "It's important to know where you're at with everything." And then she adds, in an effort to avert the suspicion "I need you to know that anything you say in here will be kept between you and me. I'm bound by the strictest confidentiality agreements. Your parents won't know any of it, even if they did book the appointment." She offers him a slight smile. "Are you upset your parents booked this appointment?"

His own smile meets hers, and is just as easily delivered, perhaps even as practiced. Joel lifts his chin, looking down the bridge of his nose slightly at her as if weighing the situation, her words, her manner. She can almost catch the edges of each emotion, a cavalcade of expression that only she can perceive at the moment. "Not really," There is that wariness, but what is more there's curiousity, chagrin, a faint hint of annoyance, and probably entirely unconcious is a faint glimmer of attraction if only because she's semi-cute.
"I should have expected something to come up. My folks have a tendency to act out at times." A curious way of phrasing it. To his credit he's maintaining a decently level facade, keeping his body language mellow and no extraneous movements. Yet that very fact probably leads her to several conclusions or thoughts.

"Have your parents booked appointments like this before?" Sydney quirks as she studies his body language. Unconsciously she crosses her legs, right over left before leaning back in her seat and jotting down a few notes. "Are you…" she studies him, "puzzled?" She runs her tongue over her lips before raising an eyebrow, "What exactly did they tell you about this appointment?

There's that utter edge to him, the clear wariness that she can probably tell he suppresses often amongst others, yet her perception can easily pick up on it. His grey eyes meet hers, hands clasped lightly before him. He takes a steadying breath then replies with what passes for a companionable smile, "They haven't, no." She can almost detect his desire to leave it at that… but that'd be rude, closing off avenues of conversation, being uncooperative. So he adds, "They just tossed me an email, said they'd appreciate if I came to this since they were spread a bit thin."

Sydney bites her bottom lip. This is precisely why she tries not to take referrals from family members. "Do you feel their concern is warranted?" she asks rather idly as she begins to feel that same wariness. Consciously she uncrosses her legs once again, and attempts to open up her posture. She shifts in her seat as she studies him.

There's just something about that somewhat sleepy gaze of his, as if all the angles, distances, aspects of the moment were being gauged. He's not as sensitive to his fellow man as she is, but that isn't to say he isn't a terribly perceptive individual. Finally gaze fully settles on her, his lip curls without that touch of the sardonic, instead he seems almost to feel bad for her, "Don't worry. I'm not angry."
He opens his hands, his own body language shifting consoling as he murmurs. "To be fair, if I had a kid and everything happened and then he went from one way of living to another, sure I'd be concerned." A tilt, "I was mainly curious what they'd do, this is at least interesting." And there, he grudgingly offers a sliver of a compliment.

"Interesting? Their actions, or my therapy?" Sydney manages to suppress a chuckle, but cracks a smile. "I hope my therapy isn't that entertaining." She eases a bit in the chair and her smile is easier. In fact her entire demeanor is easier. "You said your life changed from one way of living to another. What brought about the change?" She absently chews on the end of her pen.

"Now doc, is it fair you fish for compliments in my head shrinking session?" Sure that could sound harsh, but the tone he delivers it with, the easy half-smile that seems so terribly nebulous, both help to remove any possible sting from those words. He presses on as he begins to look around the office, gaze lingering upon aspects of the room that might give him some insight into Sydney herself. "Their actions, though I admit this is pretty interesting too." He looks back to her, "I left my old job, decided to grow up a bit."

Several filled book shelves line the walls (bearing works by all of Sydney's academic heroes: Jung, Freud, and Durkheim) and are accompanied by posters of various cartoon characters, likely to make children comfortable. Sydney's bachelors and masters degrees are hung above one of the book shelves. Oddly, not a single personal photo exists in the room.
"I would think most parents would be pleased to know their son is 'growing up'. Why do you think that concerns them?" She's smiles lightly.

His lips part for a moment, he subconciously moistens his lower lip, probably a tell of some sort. Joel looks up, scrunching up one eye awkwardly as he replies, "They've always had a sort of, 'that's our Joel.' approach to things, not like an affectionate thing, but more a '_sigh_, that's our Joel.' but I kinda think that they liked being needed. If that makes sense."
He seems to find it curious that there are so few personal effects. He looks about the desk in that direction, then back towards her. She can almost /feel/ the weight of his regard as it falls heavily on her. He takes her measure, considering her manner, her build, her body language… even her tendencies in motion. "But I think just change in general worries them."

Eyes study Joel, and as he stares at her, she crosses her legs once again and subconsciously crosses her arms over her chest. Pressing her lips together she considers his words. "Do you think your parents are the ones in need of therapy then?" Sydney asks curiously. She consciously uncrosses her arms over her chest and bites on her pen once again before leaning back in her seat.

So curious, it might be as if he's gauging how much of a threat she could be, or what her position of gain might be in such a moment. His grey eyes slide away as easily as they met hers, his words offered in that lazy tone of his, "Well, naturally all psychologists or the like think everyone needs therapy." His lip curls and he glances askance, almost conspiratorially as he adds, "More clients, more money." His nose crinkles subtly, as if curious what sort of jape might draw from her.

"You think I'm in my profession for the money? I'm sitting on at least $50000 in student loans—" Sydney's tone borders on irritation. She takes a deep breath and then regains her stoic composure, suppressing her irritation once again, pushing it to the back of her emotions where it can be seen touched, or even felt. "Do you think there's any validity in therapy?"

His head tilts slowly the other way as he considers her, and that smile that flickers faintly into being at the corner of his mouth would be enough to give her a window into his feelings despite her abilities. Yet her seemingly riling up doesn't annoy or bother him, instead it seems to have an almost opposite affect, almost endearing to him. He straightens up a touch and instead of answering her first question, he answers her second, "I think there's validity in talking with others. Not necessarily therapy, but in today's society folk can be so closed off…" He gestures with one hand, as if brushing his own words aside, letting her take or leave them.

She appears calm once again as Joel smiles. "Sorry about that. Unfortunately I'm more sensitive than a therapist ought to be." Sydney smiles faintly before she moistens her lips again and settles back into her chair. With another sigh she chews on the end of her pen once again. "Talking is important," she agrees. "But then I guess, I'm biased." After considering Joel's words, she asks, "Are you closed off?"

He unlaces his fingers to extend a hand to the side, waggling it a bit in the universal sign for 'higgledy-piggledy'. Joel smiles wryly and meets her gaze, "So so." He answers her question, but then presses upon a more interesting topic to his perception. He leans forwards just so, clearly intent as he murmurs, "Is that why you chose to be a therapist? Because you do seem to wear your heart on your sleeve a bit." He straightens a touch, "Not that that's a bad thing, I imagine it could help in some ways."

"This isn't supposed to be about me, but yes and no," Sydney answers vaguely with a smirk. "I have a natural ability to empathize with people and am all-too-in-touch with my own emotions. Beyond that—" Her smirk broadens. "I'm not sure this is what you're doing to your parents, but … have you ever done something just to make them mad?" Her eyes gleam with slight mischief. She's drifting too easily out of therapist mode in this session. Never a good thing. She takes another deep breath and shifts back into her therapist persona, "So you wouldn't describe yourself as closed off? Would other people?"

For a time he just looks at her, his grey eyes have just a hint of blue to them, something deep within them. He doesn't look away for a time, then he says quietly. "If you like, I'll tell whomever asks that I stayed the whole session, that I found it enriching and a good experience. That way we don't have to continue with you under any sort of obligation to do so." Joel straightens up a bit, resting his hands upon his knees. He grimaces as he uncurls, almost like a large feline, his back making small crackling pops as he draws upwards. "So we can just talk. And that'll be all the more interesting, don't you agree?"

"That sounds… good," Sydney's eyes sparkle hopefully as she stretches. It's not ethical, but she hasn't exactly had the best ethics lately anyways. "It would be nice to chat. I have to admit, I don't actually talk very often. Too much time listening." She grins slightly.

As his stretch ends, he tilts his head to the side until there's a low cartilaginous crack from his neck. He meets her gaze and then there's something edged in his smile, as if the game has just truly begun. She can sense his amusement, a touch of playfulness, but also something else. "Good, then I'll answer you. Of course I have, everyone acts out, everyone wants attention." He then uncurls a hand, towards the room in general, "Though I'm curious about you, this room, there's so little of you here. Is it just because you're young and haven't had time to accrue 'things', or is it a concious decision?"

Sydney puts the pad of paper aside, but keeps chewing the pen regardless. She mirrors his emotions, her smile broadening as all formality has been stripped from the encounter. "You act out for the attention then? Interesting," the words are punctuated by a half-smile. She crosses her legs right over left, and quirks an amused eyebrow, "You noticed. Very perceptive." She smirks as she glances about the room. "It's sort of on purpose. But my house is somewhat the same." She shrugs. "I'm not sure if you've ever heard that old adage about how all psychology majors are secretly trying to fix themselves, well…" She wrinkles her nose and shrugs again.

"See, now it's only fair for you to tell me what should be here." His blink is slow, easy-going, a certain laziness in his regard as he considers her. He uncurls a hand in a calm gesture, "Should there be trophies? Should there be photoes of significant others, family members? What about artwork of your own devising? Your own choice? People admired. It's so terribly rude of you to not allow such a window into your life and soul when you seek to draw the very same from folks you sit down on this really uncomfortable couch by the way." At the last his gaze shifts to the wicked, almost evil in expression.

"Well, I have't much time for people outside of my work," Not entirely true, "and I'd rather not stare at pictures of my remaining family everyday," Sydney answers rather idly. "I have three jobs, including this one, and I'm a full-time student pursuing my PhD. That is my life." She purses her lips together. "I don't draw. I don't paint." She shakes her head matter-of-factly. "No significant other." Not now, anyways. She stares at his expression. "Why are you so interested in me anyways? Very rarely does anyone ask me a question. Let alone several."

"I love puzzles," Joel answers, or perhaps he just says that, throwing it out there. "Three jobs, now see, that speaks to me of over-achievment, so much studying, so many student loans." He grins as he brings up that tidbit of information she gave him earlier. He leans to the side and crosses a leg over his knee, expression intrigued. "What about me sets you off balance?" He asks, brow furrowing in curiousity.

"Perhaps," she answers idly. "I wouldn't call myself a puzzle though. And I don't think I'm particularly interesting other than my questionable ethics," she smirks. Looking him over, she bites her bottom lip, scanning his mannerisms. "I can't quite figure you out," Sydney admits with a grin. "You're this strange myriad of emotion and emotional suppression. It's highly unusual. You don't give a clear message in your body language, and you're more interested in me than talking about yourself. That's highly unusual." And then she adds for good measure, "Although it's rare for parents to book appointments for their grown children."

"Questionable ethics, that's a touch leading…" His smile is easily given as he reclines there, almost in the Roman manner from ancient times. Fingertips drum lightly upon the arm of the couch as his eyes remain level upon her. "But see, to be fair, I know all about me already. It's a book well written and read, though I know many folks enjoy introspection. I have a lot of time to myself so that path's worn down." He casually mixes his metaphors as he straightens up, leaning towards her if only to get a different angle to consider her from. "And yes, it is isn't it. But they meant well."

"Well, an ethical therapist wouldn't be divulging any of this to you. In fact, generally the less people know about us, the better," Sydney stifles a chuckle. "I'm sure they did mean well. Parents generally do. So do grandparents." She forces a smile and then nods, "Introverts tend to be very introspective. So are very independent people." She narrows her eyes but continues to smile, "What kinds of things do you reflect on, Joel? Life circumstances? How the hell you got where you are? Where you're going?"

The young man's lips part in a soft and soundless 'ah' as she reveals yet more insight for him. Joel looks to the side for a moment, as if letting a few thoughts rumble around in his mind. She can probably get a sense of wariness, mixed with curiousity, but also a tinge of wicked amusement, almost something bordering on flirtation. His grey eyes shift back and he flashes that wry smile, "Almost exactly that, actually. In various lengths, shapes, and permutations." He pauses, then presses her, "You do see now, though, that by confiding there's a measure of trust that can't be gained with traditional therapy."


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