This issue was reflected in the support group for volunteers, which met with me about once a month. In sharing their experience of their clients, the volunteers were sometimes apologetic about their work. Comments from me would be received with a respect that was I am sure not always appropriate. After several meetings, one volunteer voiced a more general feeling that I was expecting them to be ‘deep therapists’, saying with some sharpness that this was not the job for which they had volunteered. For my part, it had seemed as though I had to choose between making comments about their experience and be heard with inappropriate respect, or holding back thoughts that occurred to me, making only the most bland contributions.
This experience was also part of my work with clients as a social worker. A Spanish woman sought help on three occasions following violent scenes with her husband. She portrayed a picture of an intolerable home life from which she had to escape. She felt she could no longer tolerate her husband’s violence and there was no future to the marriage. However, each time the way out of the marriage seemed equally unacceptable to her. Legal proceedings would only provoke more violence; she could not bear to go to a women’s refuge; she could not return as a separated wife to her family. Every step was impossible and yet it felt I was required to come up with the solution or else be totally useless to her. There seemed no way of helping without being God!