I graduated in 1999 and left therapy school grabbing life’s balls with one hand, while caressing Irv Yalom’s Momma and the Meaning of Life with the other. I was excited to embark on a therapy career. Problem was I totally sucked…
Sometimes it’s just your turn to be ‘that therapist.’ The good news is we’ve all been there.
1. Believing people don’t create their reality
Contrary to popular belief, life doesn’t just happen to us without our input. We’re active participants in our successes and our failures. Psychology can be hella confusing and it takes a lot more than your two-year Masters program to integrate this one. But “there’s very few victims in this world” said my amazing clinical supervisor, Reevah Simon.
Boy, was she right.
2. Leaving your sense of humor out of the therapy room
Of course you’re a professional, but it’s therapy, not heart surgery. To paraphrase some former president, it’s the relationship, stupid. Forgoing personality is like hanging a shingle above your office that says “Pompous Ass” (preferably after your name, and before your credentials).
3. Feeling sorry for people
(Good Gawd, how I sucked at this one.) Not holding your client accountable for changing does nothing to help him move forward (in fact, you’re probably reinforcing that he’s a ‘victim’ and enabling him to remain stuck).
4. Not admitting you favor certain clients
In the real world it’s called “identifying your target audience.” If you feel especially guilty about this one, make sure to have just one kid.
5. Saying insurance companies don’t…
- suck the life out of you
- frustrate your clients
- get in the way of therapeutic work
- by and large, care less about the mental well-being of their members, and sure-as-shit test yours
- exist as a necessary evil, and benefit many people greatly (just not your therapist — Okay, rant’s over )
6. Never really knowing how good (or bad) you are
Let’s face it, some of you are (a bit) entitled. We can (largely) blame your institution for stroking your ego. After all, if they told you you’d struggle like hell, would you have stayed? Exactly.
Living in the university bubble is nothing like living in the real world. So buckle up, get one helluva great clinical supervisor, and if you haven’t already, hightail it to your own therapist.
7. Dutifully practicing rules, laws and ethics, but never trying the MSU (“makin’ shit up”) Approach
The more I practice psychotherapy, the more I realize some of the traditional theories, interventions and rules don’t always make sense, or help get clients off the couch quicker. Sometimes you gotta fire up the creative, and think outside the Freudian box.
The problem with telling you this is that some of you will actually go out and try the MSU. And though I’m probably not doing a good job explaining (good thing that’s not the job of a therapist), understand you have to know the rules in order to break them.
8. Having love in your heart as the only way to deal with difficult clients
I know — duh? — but rooks don’t know just how difficult it is to summon heart and compassion when your client projects crap at you hour after weary hour. There’s a difference between real love and pedagogical love.
Only when you’re seasoned (and skilled at screening, and later, referring out) do you know that we all play to a hidden audience of Mom and Dad during interactions, and your client’s insults and not-so-subtle sighs aren’t meant for you at all.
9. Treating “treats” as something your client just puts in her mouth
Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but food can reveal a lot about how your client views the world, and how she feels about nurturance. Try putting a bowl of chocolates and some water bottles in your office and see who voraciously gobbles them and who refrains (if you don’t work with teens, this may not be entirely relevant).
~Does your client ask before taking?
~Does he go for it with gusto?
~Do he decline out of politeness, fullness, lack of interest, or because he’s emotionally withholding?
How we handle food is fascinating on many psychological levels.
10. Trying to be popular
(Not that I know.) Remember clinical incisiveness is compromised when you let certain rules slide.
Like that time you worked in a group home and one of the teens promised to go to every class and not throw a chair at the teacher the next day if you “please, please, please don’t tell anyone you saw me making out with my (adult) boyfriend after school today, K?”
11. Drinking a glass of Chardonnay after a long day
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P.S Gratitude to this post for inspiration.