You listen without silencing the loud, ugly cries of my pain
You watch, without judgment, my whole being unfold
The details are still sharp, the bigger picture of me, whom I had lost, is more clear
You see me, in all tenderness and quietly embolden me to stay there where I am tender
Where I am simple
You are there, which makes this tender place real, and comfortable and possibly inhabitable
Somehow, I am breathing deeper now
and writing poetry again.
— A Client, March 2017
This room, how can I describe but a place for relief and a place for being yourself. A place to come to when we are down and no one can help except the person with deep feelings who will accept my deep feelings and will not laugh.

The room has taught me a I’m a person who never gave myself a chance. I am a person who is now just coming into the world like a new born baby. How hard it was for me to trust you but now I feel I solve my problems with you and others. I shall never say goodbye to you because you shall always be inside of me giving me a helping hand.

— A 14 year old student, May 28, 1971
I remember the first conversation we had. You caught me in the hall of the school and said, “How are you doing? No, how are you really doing? I thought, How does he know? And “oh my gosh, he really cares.” From that moment on I felt safe, knowing that someone there cared about me and it was going to be OK. And that I was not crazy.
— A high school teacher, 2011
Hi, This letter has been a long time coming. . .
To get to the point, I want to thank you for your help while I was at FHS. Although I didn’t come and talk to you very often, I always knew somewhere in the back of my mind, that you were there. It wasn’t until I got here at college that I realized how comforting it is to know there is someone to go to when there is no one to listen. Most often, I didn’t really talk “to” you, it was more talking “at” you. Talking “at” you gave me a chance to sort out my thoughts and feelings out loud. I guess what I am trying to says, keep chipping away at cold, unresponsive people like me. It may seem that you’re getting nowhere but they may appreciate it in the future.
— A Student in High School Gifted Program, writing to me in her freshman year at college, 1976
“I’m so tired of fighting my hurt, so tired of trying to hide it. I feel like I want to give up. I’m so afraid of being alone. Everywhere I turn is a dead end. I feel that the part of me that everybody sees is just a shell. Far away inside of that shell is me sitting in there and looking out and not liking what I see. I’m just writing what I think as I think it. I still feel unloved. I still feel unwanted. I want more. Is that wrong? I want to scream but you can’t do something like that in this world. Everyone would think I was crazy. I hate this world. Maybe I’m crazy.

There is an emptiness in me. I hate the emptiness more than I hate the hurt. I’m in my shell again. I think I’ll stay. It’s so much safer here. In here that is no hurt., there is nothing. I feel you have made me feel., then just left me. I was plunged so quickly into the fake world after the group that I was stunned. In the emptiness the only things there are hate and a feeling of wanting to give up. The emptiness follows the hurt and loneliness.

I hate you right now, right now I hate you so much. I hate to hate you. I can’t help it. I hate the world tonight.

Dear Mr. Howley, I find myself turning to my shell more and more lately. I’m in it again tonight. Today in the group you talked to me like we were alone. You know for a while I forgot anyone else was there. The shell is a defense, a protection against what other people might say or think because I showed my feelings. A protection from prying parents. Maybe, yes, sometimes it;s because I’m embarrassed because I showed my feelings so I retreat. Maybe not embarrassed but angry. If that isn’t a stupid reason for retreating into a shell. This is the first time in my life I haven’t been living in my shell. You made me want to live. How can I thank you for all that you’ve done?* You gave me something to live for. If you hadn’t helped me, I don’t know if I would still be here. Before I started seeing you I always thought about killing myself. It seemed like the only way out of the hell I was living in.”

* Twenty years later she sent me a donation in her gratefulness to me. I used her donation for someone who did not have enough money to attend one of my “Your Way of Being” groups.
— Sharing from a 14 year old girl in the middle of a very difficult time in her life, 1968. Frequently students would write to me about their life. I learned so much from them as I began counseling. I am so very grateful SJB for your trust in me in our meetings and in your heart breaking letters.