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  • Janyne McConnaughey, PhD

Therapy: Just Like Falling in the Giraffe House

With the words to a song about climbing out of the rubble drifting through my head, I entered the giraffe house at our local zoo. It had been, long year and it was a nice break to go on an adventure with a friend. After this visit to the zoo, I was going to what we all hoped was my final therapy session. I was confident and had my notes ready.

Stepping into the ill-lit giraffe building, I suddenly found myself tripping over something. Arms flailing wildly, and struggling to gain my balance, I slowly got my feet to stop tripping over whatever was under me and stood still.

My friend asked, “Are you OK?”

I was! We looked at each other with relief and then,


I was on the ground.

While trying to collect my pride, I heard the nice young man selling lettuce leaves to feed to the giraffes ask, “Mam, are you OK?”

I said yes and asked him to help me up.

Looking at my friend, I said, “What was that? I was fine and then, BAM! I was on the ground. What happened?”

Behind me was a stack of large mats. They had cushioned my fall, but they were also the cause of falling in the first place.

The giraffe over my head was looking at me quizzically. His head was tilted exactly like Dr. Sue when she thought I was on my feet, only to see me fall flat once again.

“There is another layer. There is something else,” she would say.

This scenario had been repeated again and again, but on this day I was feeling confident as I went to my session and sat on the couch for possibly the last time. (Hope springs eternal.)

“I went to the zoo today.”

The look of delight on Dr. Sue’s face was rewarding. I had just spent a week in bed not long before this so going to the zoo was certainly a good sign.

“I fell.”


While telling the story, the parallels between my balancing act, moment of relief, and subsequent fall looked a lot like therapy.

Trip. Flail wildly. Regain balance. “I’m good.” Moment of relief. BAM! On the floor.

I began laughing and couldn’t stop. It was very good to hear my laughter in the office, which had been filled with tears for so many months.

Dr. Sue was laughing with me, and then she said, “You held out your hands and asked him to help you up.”

We stared at each other as the import of this sank in. I reached my hands out to a man to help me. This was excellent progress from the awkward day a few weeks earlier when I had refused to shake the hand of the church greeter.

Yes, I fell a lot, but when I got on my feet again, it was always in a better place. It wasn’t my last session, but I was back on my feet and so much better!

And the giraffes were always impressed.

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