Author’s note: Carl Phillips is not the name of the counselor in this story. With respect for his professional privilege, it has been changed.
The modest Alabama home was typical for modern-day America; mom, stepdad, and three children – but soon after Carl Phillips stepped into the home, he knew something was seriously wrong.
“I am a licensed professional counselor that holds mental health counseling sessions in the homes of my clients,” Phillips said. “I was assigned to help a 16-year-old – whom had prior sexually molested his three-year-old sister – transition back into the family home.”
The sessions went well for about two months; then Phillips noticed something begin to chip away at the 16-year-old.
“The client began a very atypical downward spiral,” Phillips said. “I could not find a cause nor could I help him pull out of it.”
The teen soon molested his sister again and was taken from the home and placed back into a Department of Youth Services treatment center. But it wasn’t until the boy was gone that Phillips realized what tortured this family wasn’t the teenager, it was the house.
“I was asked to remain and hold four sessions with the remaining family members to help them cope with the 16-year-old's noted removal,” he said. The step-father, however, refused to take part. “During this time, the other brother, nine years of age, whom was very healthy mentally, moved into the bedroom that had been his 16-year-old brother's.”
And the downward spiral continued.
“While concluding a session with him, he asked me if I had ever heard voices,” Phillips said. “I was shocked by his question, which led to my questioning him about this comment, and he disclosed that he does not ‘hear voices,’ but instead hears a single voice originating from his closet.”
As Phillips listened to the boy’s description of the voice, the atmosphere in the room began to waver.
“Something in that room then changed, as if the air became slightly thinner and warmer,” he said. “I saw that the nine-year-old client also felt this change, as he had a look of terror.”
Phillips felt the urge to run, but something held him fast.
“I myself have faced many difficult situations in life, and I pride myself in never getting rattled,” he said. “But I felt complete, abject terror at this time to the point that if a child would not have been left behind, I would have fled the house.”
He didn’t, and the counseling session continued. The boy told Phillips of mornings when a deep, raspy voice roused him from sleep.
“He would be woken by the voice who would inform him that ‘no one loves you. It doesn't matter what you do, your family will not stay together,’” Phillips said. “He then began crying deeply, and disclosed that some nights the voice had woke him and told him go ‘and do (bad things) to your sister.’”
As these words spilled from the boy’s mouth, the tension in the room grew taut.
“I then instructed him to stand and pray as I prayed,” Phillips said. “Immediately upon beginning the prayer, the room again felt normal and the overpowering feeling of fear was gone. I discussed with the client about regular prayer and church attendance.”
A month later, Phillips’ required counseling sessions were over, and he never went back to that house. But the family wasn’t finished with him.
“A little over one year later, the family saw me out getting supper and came to speak to me,” he said. “I noticed the mom was with a different man than she had been with during the time she and her family had seen me as a counselor.”
The mother introduced Phillips to her new husband; then told Phillips what had happened after the counseling sessions ended.
“I got the coldest of chills when she disclosed the following to me,” he said. “Soon after I concluded sessions with them the prior year, her nine-year-old son had begged to change rooms. She explained that she and her ex-husband had been having very large problems in their marriage, and as a result, he moved out of their bedroom and into the one her youngest son had moved from.”
And it began again.
“The woman then looked at me and disclosed that she had divorced her ex-husband due to his decision to, early one morning, after midnight, molest her young daughter,” Phillips said. “I could not say anything for several minutes, and upon eventually wishing good-bye to the family, I reflected on their case, which was the most frightening matter I had ever experienced personally or professionally.”
Between the divorce and remarriage, the family moved from the house.
Copyright 2009 by Jason Offutt
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