This is a tough one, yet another of those therapy issues with no clear-cut answer: the subject of thank you's.*
I used to feel really uncomfortable when a patient, or more likely, his parent, thanked me after a session. They don't owe me that, I would squirm and tell myself. I'm just doing my job.
What flawed thinking, on many accounts. Here's why:
Giving Strengthens. Human beings were not created to receive without giving, and no one in her right mind would choose a position of constant receiving, nor the sense of powerlessness, hopelessness and utter dependency that would follow. One of the first phrases my kids ever uttered was Self. SELF! and with good reason. By learning to express their own independence, my kids were strengthening themselves and their feelings of independence and humanity.
Receiving is Giving. I addressed this a bit in my original post. For hospitalized children, and especially their parents, saying thank you is one way they can give, in a setting where they are constantly on the receiving end: Countless medicines to fight the disease and the pain; Food delivered on a tray; Clean sheets with the hospital's name printed on it. Even every-day tasks, the ones that characterize a "normal" life -- such as cleaning the floor, cooking pasta, folding shirts -- are no longer an option. To this add endless non-profits and tzedakah organizations who, despite the most wonderful intentions in the world, sometimes increase the families' feeling that, yet again, they are the objects of someone else's generosity.**
A simple thank you is a way of giving, of re-establishing feelings of identity and wholeness, and of expressing love for self and others in the form of gratitude. To accept a straightforward thank you with honest appreciation is to move toward restoring the balance between giving and receiving.
I'd Like to Hear It. As for the professional, it's nice -- maybe even necessary -- to hear thank you for one's efforts, at least some of the time. Who, after all, doesn't want to be thanked, even while she's punching a clock? Work is work, and seeking some sort of recognition or appreciation, in addition to a salary, is nothing to be ashamed of. For most of us it would be false modesty to deny this. When I came to that new understanding, it became so easy to hear thank you, smile and reply "Your welcome," sometimes followed by, "it's my pleasure" or even, "Thank you too, for sharing your ideas with me."
Yes, there is a hospital story to go with all of this, but that'll have to wait for a later post...
Keep the balance,
*For those of you wondering why I suddenly have so much time to post, it's becauseI have been stuck at home with the flu for three days. I'm already feeling much better, but it's too much of a risk for kids with low blood counts to be exposed to my viruses. At one good thing is coming out of it... I have time to write.
** No wonder so many families, upon finishing treatment, run to establish an NPO of their own, in a worthy and understandable effort to reestablish the sense of give-and-take equilibrium they felt prior to their experience with illness, as well as trying to help others benefit from the "insider" knowledge they have gained.