To: Katherine O’Brien
From: Ahleah Woodhouse
Hi Kate -
I wanted to give you a heads up about a student we’re referring to your office after an alcohol transport. Do you have time today or tomorrow to talk about him?
To: Ahleah Woodhouse
From: Katherine O’Brien
Of course! It’s bananas with the semester just starting up. I hope Resident Life hasn’t had too many transports so far? I’m most available over lunch and late in the afternoon - can you make something like that work?
Katherine, fingers mid-air and reaching for her sandwich, sighed and picked up the receiver, readying a smile.
Kate: Hello, this is Katherine O’Brien, how can I help you?
Leah: Hi Kate! I wasn’t sure I would reach you!
Kate: Leah! How is the semester treating you so far?
Leah: Well, *sigh*. It’s been busy.
Kate: Same same. Every year I tell myself it will be fine and every year I’m tearing my hair out in the first three weeks.
Leah: Pretty much! Sorry to add to it.
Kate: It’s fine, it’s fine - that’s what we’re here for, and my intern should be ready to rock and roll soon, which will help. You wanted to touch base about a student?
Leah: Yeah - I would normally email but the thing is that his family are kind of public figures so it’s a little sensitive.
Kate: Ooo. OK. So what’s his name? So I can pull up his records?
Leah: Warlock Dowling
Leah: I know - it’s an unusual name
Kate: Oh..kay. Warlock is the first name? Spelled like a male witch?
Kate: And Dowling is… D O W…
Leah: yep... L I N G.
Kate: Great. Got it. So what happened?
Leah: He had an alcohol transport. I think he is maybe trying to rush one of the fraternities, though he wouldn’t say which.
Leah:... I know. Anyway, the transport wasn’t all that strange. He had too much to drink at an off campus party, something with the fraternity it sounds like, but of course he won’t say which one.
Kate: Of course.
Leah: And then at some point, his friends...
Kate: :disapproving murmur:
Leah: Right - so his friends apparently let him just go off…
Kate: ...on his own?
Kate: Man. Poor kid. And then someone found him?
Leah: Yeah. He was passed out on the quad, in one of the garden beds, with no shoes.
Kate: Oh dear.
Leah: Shit, I’m sorry - I just remembered I have a meeting in just a few minutes. Anyway, the real trouble is that when the community director started talking with him about contacting his parents, he kind of freaked them out
Kate: He freaked out?
Leah: No, well, not really - he just freaked out the community director because he said that it would, and I quote, “be the end of my life” if his parents were contacted.
Kate: … uh huh. Is it just hyperbole?
Leah: They couldn’t figure it out - his CD is new to the position, I think. Anyway, I ended up meeting with him, to try to figure out what he was worried about, or who else we could contact, and he just clammed up. I was able to figure out that he’s not actually afraid of his parents per se, but he seems very genuinely worried about his parents being contacted. I’m hoping that you’ll be able to figure some of this out and help him identify an alternate trusted adult we could speak with?
Kate: Totally. I’ll do my best, anyway.
Leah: Thank you, really.
Kate: What else am I here for? We should really do lunch again soon. I need to return your books, and I have more for you to borrow.
Leah: This month is so busy. I’m sorry. Maybe next month?
Kate: Yeah - email me some lunch times that might work for you? We can go from there?
Leah: Perfect. Check in after you meet with him? I think his appointment is coming up soon.
Kate: No problem, I’ll do that! Keep in touch!
Leah: Thanks! Bye!
One glance at her sandwich and a sigh later, Kate taps some notes on Dowling into his chart and gives her staff a heads up, in case his appointment is scheduled with someone else.
A young man, with a few pimples shining around his temples and a shirt emblazoned with “No Borders No Walls” over an anarchy symbol, slouches in an institutionally upholstered chair.
“Would you be willing to tell me a little bit about what happened that led to your referral here? It sounds like you had a pretty rough night,” suggested Kate.
“I mean, sure. Whatever.”
“OK. so… “
“Yeah, so I guess I took a nap in a flowerbed.”
“Yeah. I’d gotten tired of the people I was with and decided to go to bed”
“...in a flower bed?”
“Ugh. No. I don’t know how that happened. I remember being at a party, kind of irritated with the guys, and deciding to leave, that’s all.”
“What do you remember next?”
“I guess the hospital.”
“That sounds pretty scary - I mean, waking up in a hospital doesn’t usually mean that your night has gone great.”
He just shrugged.
“OK, so you’re not so worried about waking up in the hospital, although being found in the flowerbed seems to bother you a bit.”
“Well, it’s bad for the plants.”
Warlock looked disgusted, and explained “Yeah. Not so great for plants to be squashed.”
“True, although I think you might be the first student I’ve met with here who has been worried about their effect on the landscaping.”
Kate just waited.
“I guess I was taught better than that.”
“Oh, by your parents?”
“No,” he sneered.
“OK... If we can rewind a little bit, could you tell me some more about your night?”
“Fine. What do you want to know?”
“Well, maybe we could start with how you spent the evening?”
“I went to a party. There was alcohol.”
“Mhm. Off campus?”
“Yes,” he says, and the s emerges sibilant with annoyance.
Kate takes a slow breath in and out. “Hey, so I can tell you don’t want to be here. That’s cool - most of the time students don’t want to be here with me.” Seeing him start to shake his head a little, she raises her eyebrows. “Real talk - what would you rather be doing right now?”
“I like to nap.”
“Who doesn’t? I certainly wouldn’t mind a nap. So you’d really rather be asleep right now. And instead you’re here talking with me.” Warlock looks very briefly abashed, though nods, surprising the heck out of Kate. “Is there anything you’re looking forward to doing more after you leave here today?”
Warlock just shrugs, eyes sliding away from Kate’s.
“Pizza? Video game? Cross stitch? Curling competition? Reading something interesting for class?” His eyes are now definitely tracing the carpet’s design, offering up more shrugs as his feet swing back and forth at the ankles. “Time with friends?” His feet slide in under him and he snaps “No.”
Kate sighs, eyes softer and forehead creases sharper. “How’s the adjustment to campus life going for you?”
“Uh huh. Roommate?”
“Classes? Wait. Let me guess - fine?”
The left side of Warlock’s mouth starts to crease before slipping back into place, a study in indifference.
“Mm. It’s a big school - can feel really impersonal. I heard you might be thinking of rushing a fraternity?”
“Yeah, maybe not.”
Kate just waits.
“They aren’t what I thought.”
“They just, said some things.”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“That’s your call - presumably these were not very nice things they said.”
Warlock shook his head, disappointment and apathy holding battle in his face. Apathy won.
“Sure. Look, we don’t have to talk about that, and you don’t have to want to be here - that’s really OK. I’m aware we’ve only got so much time, though, and there’s something on my agenda that I think it would be best for us to talk about today if we can.”
Warlock glances back up at her, wary. “What is it?”
“So you know that we usually inform students’ family - often parents, maybe a guardian - when they go to the hospital with alcohol poisoning, right?”
“Right,” is his clipped response, “fine.”
“The thing is, it usually goes better than students think it will - the conversation with their parents or whomever - but sometimes it really isn’t for the best. I understand you really don’t want us to talk with your parents. Could you tell me a little bit about that?”
“You can’t tell them. It will be… it will be… you just can’t. OK? Why don’t you people get this?”
“You really don’t want us to tell them - I hear that loud and clear - can you tell me anything about your reasons?”
“It’s whatever,” she mirrors.
“Yeah, it doesn’t matter.”
“...help me out with this. You told Leah, and then me, that it would be really awful if we were to inform your parents about your hospital transport.”
“And now you say it doesn’t matter?”
“NBD. You know, No Big Deal?? Ugh.”
“OK, got it. NBD. What makes it no big deal?”
“It just isn’t, alright? Sh…
“It’s OK, you can cuss in here.”
“Well, it’s just bullshit.”
“OK, I’m hearing you, that you think it’s bullshit that you have to be here, and that we’re supposed to talk with your family. But I need your help - maybe some more information - to understand. Can you tell me what you are worried will happen if we talk with your parents?”
“They’re going to get the hospital bill and find out anyway. So what’s the point?”
“Hm. That is a hiccup - there are ways to address that, though. I’d still really like to know, if you’re OK with telling me.”
“Fine. The thing is they don’t really want me here. They want me to go to some stupid elitist school where their friends work, so they can keep an eye on me. They find out about this and it’ll just be an excuse to make me go there instead.”
“So being here sounds, by contrast, really freeing?”
“Yes,” shoulders resetting to their previous slouch.
“And you really don’t want anything to endanger you being able to stay here?”
“Leaving the bill aside for the moment, is there anyone else, another adult who cares about you, who we could talk with?”
“I mean, there’s Nanny.”
Warlock nodded. “Nanny Ashtore - I guess I always just called them Nanny. She- they- pretty much raised me. My Dad was always just busy, and Mum, I don’t know. She was never around really. I think I bored her.”
“That sounds pretty rough - and like Nanny is really important to you. Could you tell me a bit more about your Nanny - it sounds like they use they/them pronouns?”
“Yeah, or, I mean, I don’t know if they care. It’s just what I do in my head. I never get a straight answer. They just tell me ‘gender is a construct’ and change the subject. They basically raised me, them and the gardener.”
“Yeah. He’s kind of weird, they’re both kind of weird, but they took care of me.”
“OK, so both of them are really important to you - but another important thing here is whether Nanny - is that what I should call them?”
“Yeah. It’s a British thing, I guess. Once your nanny, always Nanny.”
“Sure. So the important things are whether Nanny and you are close, and if Nanny is a responsible adult you can talk with about this. You tell me - what do you think on those fronts?”
“Yeah, I think they will. I mean, talk with me, or you, about whatever, really. It’s been a few months, though, since we talked.”
“Well, since we don’t want Resident Life to get nervous and decide to call your folks - and I don’t think they’ll do that, but let’s be careful anyway - do you want to call or text Nanny while we’re meeting, to see if they’d be willing to talk with you and maybe me or someone in Resident Life?”
“Yeah, I can text them,” he says, pulling a phone with a cracked screen from his pocket.
Warlock starts to put his phone away after sending the text, when it lights up. “Oh, I guess they’re calling me?”
“Do you want to pick up?”
“Um, sure?” he says, then swipes to start the call,”Um, hi Nanny.”
In the quiet office, even Kate can hear a low pitched voice ask “What’s this I hear about you going to the hospital? Are you alright?”
“Yeah, no no I’m fine, really. I just maybe had a bit too much to drink and...”
“Warlock Dowling, what did I teach you?”
“Uhhhh” mumbles Warlock.
“OK, fine, we haven’t talked about drinking, but clearly we are going to.”
“I’m actually in a counselor’s office right now. The school made me…”
“Oh! OK. We could talk later or - rather, could you put me on speakerphone? I’d like to talk to this counselor.” Warlock taps his phone, holds it out to Kate like an offering, and nods.
“Hello, ah, Nanny, ah” and Kate realizes she has no idea what to call this person, although she’s very clear this is the kind of conversation she wants Warlock to be able to have. His nanny obviously cares about him. “I’m not sure how you’d like me to address you, but my name is Katherine O’Brien. I’m a counselor at the University of Michigan. Warlock, do I have your consent to talk with your nanny about our meeting today?”
“Yeah, that’s fine.”
“Dr. O’Brien, you can call me Anthony” comes the voice from the phone
“Oh no, it’s just Kate, thanks,”
“Fine, Miss Kate then. Do I need to come to the school? Is Warlock doing alright?”
“I don’t think there’s anything especially urgent, but he did have a really rough night recently, had too much to drink, was found in one of the quad’s flowerbeds, and”
“The flowerbed! Warlock, what would your Uncle Zira say?”
Warlock, all out of character as far as Kate would have guessed, blushed and stammered an apology “I know, I’m sorry, it’s bad for the plants, but…”
“...clearly you were intoxicated. I’m really glad that you’re safe now, but that could have been very dangerous to you. Colleges are full of dangerous animals, remember?”
Kate felt increasingly off-balance. Dangerous animals?
“I know, I know - humans.”
“Exactly. Humans. Deeply dangerous. Safer to be drunk around a horse than a human.”
Warlock looked chagrined, and a glanced bit bewilderedly up at Kate.
“So Anthony, am I correct that you’d be willing to talk more with Warlock about this later, and for me to document with Resident Life that you’ll serve as the responsible adult in his life who we consult with on at least this incident?”
“Yes, of course, but - Warlock, you didn’t want to talk to your parents?”
Warlock just shook his head.
Kate narrated “He’s shaking his head no - and he had the impression that it would result in them wishing to remove him from school.”
“I see... Warlock, do you want me to talk with your mother about this? I think I can make her see reason. You worked hard to get into the University of Michigan, and I know you don’t want to come back across the pond.” offered Anthony.
“Are you sure that would work?”
“Oh, I’m sure, love. Let me worry about that.”
“Well, that should work out really well for the school as well, Anthony. Do you think we should expect to be hearing from either of the Dowlings?” asked Kate.
“Mmm, I think maybe an email might be forthcoming, but they tend not to have a lot of time.”
“That will work,” confirmed Kate. “And I hate to be rude, but we are really close to the end of this visit together. I will want you to come back, though, Warlock - there are some other conversations I’d still like to have with you.”
“Miss Kate, I have some questions about that, actually,” interjected Anthony
“Of course - ask away, though we’re running short on time. If we can’t get to all of it, I can make time for a separate call later if Warlock signs the necessary documentation.”
“Oh good, thank you. Can you tell me the purpose of these sessions? I don’t approve of lectures.”
“Neither do I - among other things they are a colossal waste of time,” responded Kate. “We tend to focus more on asking questions, encouraging students to figure out if their habits are working for them or if they need to make any changes, and how to make any changes they want to.”
“Oh good, I always did approve of asking questions. And you’re… a psychologist?
“Clinical social worker, actually. Master’s level.”
“You’re licensed, though, you’re not just a student - I know schools do that. Wicked things, internships.”
“No, no, although I guess I have to admit we do have interns, they work under full supervision, and I am fully licensed.”
“Well, that sounds fine. I am sure he’ll be there, Miss Kate. Right, Warlock?”
Warlock sighed, though less resentfully than at the beginning of their session. “Yeah, I’ll be here.”
“Good. Good,” commented Anthony. “Is there a specific number of sessions he’s supposed to have with you?”
“Usually we shoot for around 6? It depends a bit on how our meetings go, and what the student is dealing with.”
“Well, that sounds perfectly reasonable. And if he needs more?”
Warlock looked alarmed for the first time since Nanny called.
Kate smiled a little “I’m sure Warlock will keep in touch to let you know - it sounds like you might be willing to help him find a therapist in the community if he decides that would be good for him?”
“Oh of course, of course. Warlock, when can we talk again, dear?”
“Not until after seven. I have class late.”
“OK, good. Text me so I know the time.”
“Won’t you be asleep then? That will be really late in London.”
“I’ll be sure to be up for this. Don’t you worry about that.”
“OK,” said Kate, “I am really glad that Warlock was able to get in touch with you, and I also really do have to let you and Warlock go. Warlock, could you check in with the front desk before you go and set up, say, 2 or 3 appointments just to start with?”
“We’ll talk later, dear,” said Nanny, and the line clicked out.
“You said something about paperwork earlier?”
Kate furrowed her brow. “Paperwork? Oh you mean if you want me to be able to be in touch with Nanny Anthony directly?”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“Oh, yes, if you’d like, you can take care of that at the desk too. It’s up to you.”
“OK, cool. I might.”
“Your call. Thanks for talking with me today. I’m sure I’ll see you soon, though it could be a couple weeks before I have an opening - any concerns about that?”
“Nah. I’m fine.”
“OK, and we didn’t really get to talking about how you might stay safer in terms of drinking between now and then. Is that something you feel comfortable talking about with Nanny tonight?” Kate had no idea what kind of guidance they would offer, but chances were their advice was going to be superior to the raw instinct of an 18 year old.
“Yeah, I guess.”
Kate didn’t really think he’d have a choice about that part of the conversation, based on what Anthony had said.
Hi Leah -
I was able to meet with W today. I think I have a better understanding of the situation, though not completely, and W and I spent some time talking with someone who did a lot of his early caretaking. I’m happy to discuss over the phone when we can get some time, but in the meantime, I am confident that he’s talking about the incident with an adult genuinely invested in his wellbeing.
When do you have time free to connect?