Today, I was looking up at my bookshelf in my office and scanning the titles (okay, looking for books to sell on eBay) of the reference books I've acquired over the years: Ten Days To Self-Esteem. Freedom From Depression. Intuitive Eating. Mothering the New Mother. I laughed a little, wanting to just toss all of those books in the trash. Partly because I rarely even pick up a printed copy of a book anymore but mostly because I fail, daily, to live up to those titles. Self-esteem? Eh, most days. Depressed? More than I would like to be. Eating intuitively? Well, what mother of small kids EVER gets to eat when she wants to, what she wants?
All that to say, sitting in this leather swivel chair is a great place of power. I am so humbled by my clients who blindly hand me the shreds and tatters of their lives, trusting that I might have some little nugget of insight or wisdom that they can carry out into the world with them. Hoping that I can lead them to a "ding!" moment when something clicks that has never made sense before. That, my friends, is power.
Sometimes clients ask me why I decided to go into counseling. There is a very long answer (anyone have an hour or ten?) to that question, most of which is inappropriate to talk about in a therapy session, but there are a few very succinct answers too. I believe in the healing nature of the therapeutic relationship. I believe in empowerment, full recovery, change. I care, deeply, for people. I have also experienced the phenomenon of pain and the long trudge towards health. I get it.
Those books on my shelf are part of my toolbox and I put in time and energy keeping up with all of the current "stuff" in my field, but me simply being who I am is what makes me a good therapist. One of my heroes is Irvin D. Yalom. He said, "Only the wounded healer can truly heal."** Amen.
The therapeutic relationship is often compared to blind dating. Someone you know tells you that you should call me for an appointment. You get nervous before you make the first phone call and even email me instead since calling me seems so intimidating. You fret before the appointment. What should I wear? What will she be like? Will I embarrass myself? What if I don't like her? Then, how do I get out of making a second appointment if we didn't click? Sound familiar? Well guess what? I do the same thing. I pray before your session that I can have something useful for you to take home with you. I hope that we connect. I hope that you like my style and I say the right thing. I want the relationship to work as much as you do.
I am not the World's Best Counselor, but I am wholly accepting and willing to sit with you in your deep, dark misery or celebrate with you when you make a leap of faith towards a better way of living. Try me.
**Irvin D. Yalom, Lying On the Couch