When I was 10 and my brother 13, my entire family began attending sessions at Christian Family Institute in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The set-up there was quite creepy. We sat in a room with 3-4 young therapists; I believe they were graduate students from Oral Roberts University nearby, which is where Dr. Dale R. Doty, their supervisor, had also attended. Doty and 2-3 other young therapists would sit in the next room behind some one-way glass for the entire session which was also videotaped and recorded. Toward the end of the session, the therapists who'd been in the room with us would go and meet with the supervisor behind the glass for about five minutes. Theyíd come back and tell us what Doty observed about the session. It reminded me of Oz, where we didn't often see that much of the Wizard yet his wisdom was sought. Despite the sessions apparently being a training ground for new counselors, it was quite expensive.
The therapists very much believed in "spare the rod, spoil the child," and on their instruction, my parents spankings of me increased. This probably wasn't a good idea in a family with documented legal problems with alcoholic rages and violence. I'll also note that at age 10, in my view, thatís too old to be increasing physical punishment. They also taught that physical discipline should be immediate, which meant it should happen in public if that's where the offense occurred. For example, if a dirty word was said, according to them, your parent takes you to the nearest public bathroom to wash your mouth out with soap, regardless of whether other people are in there. To my recollection, they never addressed my fatherís drinking, constant foul mouth or angry demeanor.
I wasn't allowed to discuss my brother's of fatherís abuse or behavior in general in sessions. They didnít deny I was telling the truth, they just wouldnít let me talk about it! It was really odd and frustrating. The counselors said, "These sessions are for you to talk about your own feelings, not other people." This still perplexes me, because it was family counseling. Weren't we supposed to talk about how the family was getting along? Wouldn't restricting talk about one's own personal feelings be for individual counseling, and even then, arenít personal challenges often in relation to oneís family? The counselors most certainly didn't stop my parents from talking about their kids, so apparently the rule applied to me only.
When the counselors would ask me how the previous week went, and I said anything about my fatherís or brother's physical abuse, my father was instructed to pull me over his lap and spank me in front of everyone. The first time it happened, my father began to pull my arms toward toward him on the sofa, and I thought he was about to hug me. When he then pulled me over his lap and spanked me, I was mortified. Two of the therapists in the room smiled and giggled the first time, and one clapped afterward. Between the family and counselors, there were around 10 adults total watching this and, as mentioned, the sessions were videotaped. I have no idea how Doty used these tapes. This was incredibly humiliating.
I became sad and withdrawn, and my performance at school decreased. I often vomited at home before we left for sessions. I decided to limit my speaking in the sessions, as I hated being spanked in front of everyone-- what person would like that? But, then I was also spanked in front of everyone for being "sullen".
In the front room, there were several self-help paperback books for sale. One day while waiting for our session in the waiting room, I noticed a small paperback titled An Answer to Depression. I asked my mother what depression was and she told me. I realized that I was depressed! The following week, I brought money and bought the paperback. I had high hopes, taking the title of the book at face value, my depression would be answered!
Unfortunately, the book did not help much, as much of the advice, such as joining a health club or taking a hobby class, didn't apply to a 10-year-old living in the rural sticks without transportation. However, one would have thought that a child buying a depression self-help book would have set off alarm bells with both parents and counselors. It didn't. The humiliating spankings stayed on course. We went to CFI for about nine months, stopping only because my father was out of work and we couldn't afford it anymore.
Today, Doty has become somewhat of a mini-celebrity in both Christian and secular counseling circles, including giving keynote addresses at conventions. I'm currently in a treatment program for post-traumatic stress disorder, and one of my issues being addressed is the treatment at CFI. It's ironic that Iím in counseling to address what happened to me in counseling!
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