Can you work psychoanalytically without a couch or loads of time? It is possible! I was asked to help employees of a violent Richmond housing project whose coworker had been shot to death on the job several months prior.

I was not the first therapist to be called in. The previous group session had been prematurely terminated due to a splash of gunfire. Everyone jumped under the table except for the therapist who quickly ended the session. My fears of annihilation and bodily disintegration were superseded only by my narcissism, which insisted that thistherapist would successfully compete the session! 

The atmosphere in the conference room was as gooey as the brownies placed on the table by the HR manager. The employees spoke of life in this gang-terrorized area. Witnessing shootings, dead bodies, and drug dealers was routine. Gathering the bits and pieces of their experiences, I used my reverie to convert the raw, undigested beta into alpha. The session slowly became a container for their unnamed dread. Starting to feel held, they became less black-and-white in their thinking. They could talk about good things, such as attachments to co-workers, and said that that lately, "things have been more quiet."

I asked what had happened. "The gate," said one, to which others agreed. A high metal fence with a locked gate had been erected around the project's perimeter. Now, inner and outer were defined. "We know who belongs here and who doesn't," said another. The fence made it difficult for criminals to slip in. The gate's boundaries promoted safety, allowing for the development of "me and not-me." Fragmentation was eased and they now had a skin. "The gate helps you feel strong and united as a group," I explained. Someone reached for a brownie. Finally, there was something good to take in.

Cleopatra Victoria, M.F.T.