By Mitzi Perdue
Dr. Kristie Knights’ professional world includes two of the darkest areas of human behavior. As a psychotherapist, her clients include people who are suicidal and who have been trafficked.
Why is she willing to take on clients whom many others might reject? A therapist who’s confronted with a potential patient who’s suicidal is more likely to not accept that patient than almost any other category of patient. It turns out that people who are suicidal are the most frequently “referred out,” of any category of psychotherapy patient.
Knights doesn’t just accept these patients. She embraces them and considers it a privilege to help them.
She didn’t say this herself, but if you were to spend an afternoon talking with her, you’d get a pretty good idea of why she does it. She’s a healer, and she knows she has the tools and training that can help. She knows that she can bring her patient from a place of almost infinite pain to a place of joy.
The satisfaction she gets from helping (and again, she didn’t say this, but you’d feel it as you hear her speak) is close to infinite. To be able to help someone who really needs help is an amazing experience and the greater the need, the more fulfilling it is to meet this need.
Let’s take an example of Knights’s work. We’re not using a real name, but the case is real.
Sally Pontes came to Knight through the foster care system. When Pontes entered Knights’s office, Knights saw a 15-year-old girl, maybe 5’5”, weighing 90 pounds, with her long blond hair matted and uncombed.
Pontes told Knights,
“It’s a dark whirling vortex and I can’t get out!”
“No matter how long I scream, no one hears me!”
“I’m faceless everywhere I go. No one sees me. I don’t even recognize myself when I look in the mirror.”
Pontes had been trafficked for almost a year. She had been making $2000 a night, but her trafficker took it all. She couldn’t even count how many strangers she was forced to have sex with each night, but each evening she would vomit until she fell asleep.
There were no lubricants during the sex, and often she’d end up torn and bleeding. She had tried to kill herself multiple times and couldn’t even succeed at that.
Pontes nightmare ended in an emergency room. There, a nurse figured out what was going on, and contacted protective services.
Pontes had escaped her trafficker, but not the anxiety and depression. Fortunately, Pontes became Knights’ patient.
Knights has an array of modern psychotherapy tools, such as Eye Movement Desensitization, but one of the best tools is her ability to create a trusting emotional connection.
With a full heart, Knights would tell her patient, “I see you, I hear you, you are loved.”
After only a few sessions, Pontes began to feel what she had been incapable of feeling before: trust for an adult. One day, when Pontes was making rapid progress from being suicidal to feeling happy with life she told Knights “I feel as if I’m there with a best friend.”
A doctor who can successfully patch up someone after a bad car accident must feel enormous satisfaction. Odds are, Psychotherapist Kristie Knights gets to feel even more joy and fulfillment when she has the kinds of success she regularly experiences with patients like Sally Pontes.