By Annie Dreyer
Only two months into 10th grade, Naomi* got a note in her Choices and Challenges class.
The note read “Please see Dr. Siegel,” and Naomi felt her heart sink. Though she was new to the Upper School and didnât know about the note system, she did know that she did not want to see Dr. Sheila Siegel, the school psychologist.
Naomi was frequently lying to her parents, so many scenarios ran through her head as to why she was being called in. It never crossed her mind that she had been suspected of having an eating disorder.
Naomi already had a personal therapist that she enjoyed going to and fulfilled her therapy needs.
Siegel told Naomi that some of her friends were worried that she was anorexic. Naomi was sure she was not.
Siegel talked to her about good nutrition, asked her to keep a journal of what she ate for a week and then said she wanted to call Naomiâs mother. Naomi spent the next 25 minutes persuading Siegel not to call, so as not to upset her mother. Later, she told her parents on her own.
A few months later, Naomi was sitting in her science class when she received another note with an all too familiar message on it: “Please see Dr. Siegel.”
Once again, anonymous friends had reported to Siegel that they were worried that Naomi had engaged in reckless drinking to the point of vomiting at a party that weekend.
While Naomi didnât deny her excessive drinking, she was perturbed that someone had gone to Siegel about something that her parents had already punished her for and that had happened outside of school.
“I feel like she is a very qualified doctor, and I think she does great things for the Peer Support community, but she is not someone whom I would feel comfortable telling my dirty business to since her ties are so close to the school,” she said.
In response to Naomiâs situation, Siegel said, “When saving a life is involved, I would rather have a student alive and angry at me than dead or potentially putting themselves in a situation that could be lethal.”
Naomi irregularly participated in Peer Support for four months, but decided that it wasnât what she wanted for therapy. Even though she enjoyed Peer Support, when she took up another time-consuming extracurricular she dropped Peer Support.
Naomi never brought up any serious issues in Peer Support because, as with Siegel, the idea of the school environment made her uncomfortable.
“It made me subconsciously not trust it,” she said.
Naomi previously attended family therapy when a sibling had a problem that led her parents to seek help.
Naomi tried to get out of going to family therapy. Though her parents forced her to go, they were always sure to thank her and say they were proud of her when it was over.
“I didnât like the reality that my family had to go to therapy in order for us to work things out,” Naomi said.
After her sibling left for college, her family stopped going to family therapy, but she began to see her own therapist a year later after feeling depressed as a result of the effects of her siblingâs problem. For the first and only time, Naomi was in therapy because she wanted to be there.
Naomi likes going to her own therapist more than family therapy because she gets to sit on her own couch without her family, and she can say things about her family that they will never hear about.
“The thing about [a personal therapist] is, if you feel upset because you got a bad grade on a math test, then you can talk to her about that, or if you feel really upset because you have no friends and youâre alone in the world, then you can talk about that,” she said.
Whereas Siegelâs “willingness to call my mother made me feel uncomfortable and unprotected,” Naomiâs personal therapist has assured her that she will inform Naomi before she talks to her parents.
Though a situation like this has never risen, legally, if Naomi, a minor, is hurting herself or others, then her therapist is required to tell her parents.
Naomi has sat in Siegelâs office and been sandwiched between her mother and brother in her family therapistâs officeâboth times unwillingly and unhappy to be there.
But in her personal therapistâs office, it is just her and the doctor, and she is there of her own accord.
“Itâs me time.”
* Name withheld on request.