It was a Tuesday morning and I was getting ready to see my clients for the day. I've had my practice for quite sometime now and I had become the go to therapist for the more unique cases. Leon, one of the psychiatrists at the hospital whom I had grown close with, referred a new patient to me. Her new parents had briefed me over the phone about her. From what they told me she had been through quite a lot in her life. The trauma had been so much for her that she had regressed to a the mentality of a young child. Leon came the to conclusion that her regression was permanent and I agreed. After being in a this mental state for so long it would be rare for her to come out of it.
Around noon my secretary told me that my new client had arrived and I gave him the go ahead to let them in. I opened the door and two men walked into my office, making their way to my couch. One was gray haired while the other had jet black hair. The man with black hair was carrying a girl who was sucking her thumb and clutching a stuffed elephant. "Please have a seat. My name is Dr. Haywood but please call me Charlie," I introduced myself. "Hello, I'm Alan" the gray haired one said shaking my hand, "this is my husband Freddie and this is our little girl Hannah," he finished as he reached to stroke the girl's hair. "Hannah can you say hello?" Freddie asked the little girl in his lap. She replied by letting out a whimper and trying to push herself closer to Freddie. "Sorry, she's a bit shy today," Alan replied. "It's okay sweetie, I know it can be a bit scary seeing a new place and meeting new people," I said to Hannah. "So tell me, how have the past few days been having Hannah home?" I asked. "It's been a bit of an adjustment for all of us. Hannah has been really loving being near Daddy and Papa so often." Alan said. I could tell that there was more behind what he said but he was being careful with his words given that Hannah was in the room. I wanted to talk to both Hannah's parents and Hannah separate from each other; I could sense it wouldn't be easy to separate Hannah from her parents given how she was clinging to her father. I paged Lizzie, my partner, to come in. Lizzie was a special education teacher who assisted me with my cases. She was good at working with clients like Hannah and making them feel safe. She helped in cases like these when I needed to talk the the parents and child separately. Once Lizzie walked in the room I addressed Hannah, "Hannah honey, this is Lizzie. I need to talk to your Daddy and Papa alone for a minute. Do you think it would be okay if you went and played with Lizzie for a bit?" I saw the panic in both Hannah and her fathers' eyes when I said those words. Hannah started whimpering and clinging tighter to Freddie. "Hannah, it will only be for a little while; if you get scared Lizzie will come get Daddy and Papa right away." I tried to console her. "That's right, you just let me know and I'll bring you back to your Daddy and Papa. So what do you say? How about you and I go to the other room, I have a lot of fun toys to play with in there and your stuffie can come with you," Lizzie said coming down to Hannah's level. Hannah still seemed a bit hesitant and looked up at Freddie, "why don't you go ahead princess. It sounds like fun and Papa and I will just be right here the whole time," he consoled her. Hannah slowly got up from Freddie's lap and took Lizzie's hand. "We'll be just a minute," I said as Lizzie lead Hannah to the other room.
"So can you tell me how Hannah has been transitioning to living at home with you two," I asked. "To be honest, it's been a bit more rough than we anticipated," Alan said sighing. "She's been much more anxious and clingy than she was when she was in the hospital. She's had a nightmare every time she's been asleep. She even had a panic attack, something we've never seen happened before." Alan said. "Yes she gave us quite a scare yesterday, we had put her down for a nap and she woke up in a panic," Freddie chimed in. "She slept in our bed with us last night but she kept waking herself every time she started to fall asleep; it was as if she was afraid to go sleep. She's also been acting much younger. When she was in the hospital she was acting around the age of 5. Now she seems to act more like a two or three year old. As you saw, she was sucking her thumb and she's using more baby talk than we've heard before," Alan said concerned. "Yes, but there has also been some good things since her move. She's really been bonding with our cat Juliet. She still trusts Alan and I, so she hasn't completely gone back to square one," Freddie added. "Transitions can be stressful for anyone but even more so for someone like Hannah. You have to remember the last time she was in a house it was a place that was filled with pain. The move could be bringing back some memories in her. The nightmares could have triggered some flashbacks as well," I said trying to console Freddie and Alan. "But what about her regressing more? Is she even aware that she's acting younger than usual?" Alan asked. I could tell he was the more anxious of the two given his questions; Freddie seemed concerned as well but he appeared to be more of the emotional rock in the relationship. "I doubt she's aware that she's regressed more. Her mind may be regressing more to guarantee you'll be at her side at all times. When you think about it, a two year old needs more constant attention that a five year old." I said. "I never thought about it like that. How do we make her feel more safe?" Alan asked. "By continuing to do what you are doing now. It's clear you two are doing amazing given how bonded she is with you. She wouldn't have been clinging to you if she didn't feel protected and loved by you," I said smiling. "I know it can be difficult to see her like this but just give her some time. I would suggest spending some quality time without any visitors for about 3 weeks. This will help her adjust and you will likely see signs of improvement." I offered. We spent some more time talking about Hannah's history and her progress. Alan asked most of the questions while Freddie held his hand. "If it's okay with you, I would like to spend some time alone talking to Hannah," I proposed. "Oh, um okay," Alan replied. "I promise I'll come get you both right away if she gets too anxious." I said consoling them. "We know you will," Freddie chimed in.