The Rearview Mirror of Life: The Importance of Chronology in Psychotherapy

Becoming Unglued

With the intense and relentless summer heat, my rearview mirror became unglued and fell from its usual position on the inner windshield. It plopped right onto the floor, seemingly exhausted from trying to hold on in 101-degree weather. Weren’t we all as well?! Until I could rectify the problem, I was left to blindly navigate without a view of what was happening behind me. With only partial glimpses of my surroundings in side mirrors, I quickly realized how absolutely dependent I was on looking back as I was going forward. car rear view mirror

I have found amusement in thinking about the analogy of rearview mirrors in cars and timelines, “chronologies” in our lives. Simple to complex does not seem to be important. Looking back wins the show.

According to Vince Peart in his “Social Work Skills” article,

“Chronology in social work is a timeline of significant events and changes in a client’s life. It provides a concise record of a person’s history and experiences, often highlighting any patterns or trends that may impact their current situation. Chronologies are crucial for understanding a client’s background, informing decisions, and planning interventions.”

A chronology offers a concise history of a client’s life journey, providing context for their current situation. Big life events and milestones are considered: births, deaths, graduations, jobs, marriages, divorces, moves, illnesses, achievements, and other losses to name obvious ones.

The Importance of Chronology

Chronologies can be presented in various ways. The narrative form, a written account of events in chronological order, is the format that I use most naturally. It is usually comfortable (which is of course one of my goals in a conversation with a client) for a client to be able to relax, reflect, and recollect life events that have shaped the client’s experiences. The chronology is a history of one’s journey which provides remarkable insight for both the client and me. As a reflection tool, it enables the study of patterns and triggers in one’s experience. For me, it is a valuable means of understanding my clients and in turn, advocating for them.

A tabular chronology is another type of format for a chronology. In this form, dates are documented in one column and events are listed in another. When writing case notes following a session, I often, if applicable, write a tabular recap for quick reference. Chronologies are “living documents” that continue to evolve as the client journeys and are always works in progress.

Because we are ever-evolving, we can continuously look back in our mind’s eye rearview mirror. As days pass, we add mileage to consider. One of the gifts of aging is that we have more past material to study, reflect upon, and analyze. We have had more literal time to distance ourselves from the painful events, more time for issues to resurface, and in some way to hopefully have a deeper understanding of why we feel and react as we do, for better or worse! My sincere hope is that in our lifetime, we all get to do that work.

Considering Therapy

Psychotherapy, also known as “talk therapy”, consists of many various techniques; a brief summary of formats includes individual, couple, family, and group therapy.

Is your rearview mind’s eye mirror foggy or actually unglued? If you are able to look into it, do you feel unclear about some aspects of its perceived truths? Do you find yourself feeling sad, anxious, or perhaps simply curious? A variety of practices in therapy can lead you to a greater awareness of your thinking patterns, better coping strategies, and on a broader scale, greater insights about your life. Therapy is a true gift of self-exploration!

It has often been said that life is not meant to be void of suffering. We must strive to give our pain meaning and purpose. It is the simple truth that on any day of the year, we have the ability to start over and seek greater dreams. If you are ready for that search, call me or any of my extraordinary team members, all associates of Dr. Matt Morris.



More Posts