chapter  18
My Journey with Allison in Wonderland
ByJohn M. Benda, LCSW
Pages 12

This essay presents a personal and professional reflection about the author’s one year therapeutic relationship with Allison, a 6-year-old girl diagnosed with autism. It is personal in that it is written from the therapist’s emotional experience of the therapeutic relationship. It is professional as a case study of how a therapist-child relationship may evolve. It reveals how both child and therapist can be changed by their relationship. The author assumes a systemic, symbolic, attachmentfocused, and corrective emotional experience approach to therapy. Allison was complex, relationally intense, and had a special affective presence. The author was aware while working with her that contemporary modern psychiatry trends toward asystemic, disembodied, and biochemical approaches to mental health care would fail and hinder the felt depth of the relationship. The author also presupposes with out hesitation that the desired therapist-child, or therapist-family, relationship is toward healing, greater individuation, more playful and intimate belonging, increased life satisfaction, and not just functional coping. I am a child and family therapist at a clinic that serves the emotional growth and needs of children and families. This essay recounts my therapeutic relationship with a child named Allison. I was moved to write it a week after the end of our daily time together, when Allison graduated from group play therapy. Putting our story into words turned out to be a way to integrate my feelings after Allison left. I also wrote about our

relationship in order to honor, celebrate, and share our jointly created experiences and mutual growth.