Confessions of a Therapist
I’ve got a confession to make. I am so sick of people finding out what I do for a living and then saying the absolute most out of pocket stuff to me followed by, “Well, you know, you’re a therapist.” Usually, the statement is about being hypersensitive, or empathic or having poor boundaries (they think it’s a good thing). Can’t relate. You know why? I went to school for 3 years to learn about boundaries and to understand that to be a good therapist I must be professional and ethical in my practice. And it’s just that—a practice. Since becoming a therapist, I have learned to NEVER compare myself to another professional. So, you’ll never find me saying, “I’m the hair stylist friend,” or “I’m the accountant of my friend group” because I have a deep abiding respect for other people’s professions and education. As the youth say, I stay in my lane. So here a few more things you should avoid saying when you find out someone is a therapist…
“You’re a therapist? Can you give me some advice on…”
No, I will not. I do not give away my work for free (incoming blog on that topic coming soon!) I am not a circus monkey playing a tambourine for your entertainment. I’m a human being and while some topics within the mental health field are fascinating and conversationally inspiring, I do not want to offer up any sort of therapeutic wisdom outside of my office. Why? Ethics. There is a reason we as therapists cannot work with anyone we already have an existing relationship with—there are inherent biases and not to mention the power dynamics that exist within a therapeutic relationship. I am so happy to put you in touch with a therapist in town. That therapist just can’t be me.
“You specialize in sexuality within your practice…you must see a lot of sexual assault victims.”
This is such a weird response for me when I share what I am passionate about. I mean, sure, from time to time I am helping a survivor process their trauma but often I am helping folks make sense of their sexuality and gender identity. It’s way more affirming and a lot less consoling. I am often celebrating with clients as they embark on their journey for identity fulfillment. It isn’t always doom and gloom.
“You’re a therapist? Don’t therapize me!”
My favorite response to this statement is, “Don’t worry—you can’t afford me.” What really grinds my gears about this statement is I am often just trying to be a good friend in the moment and listening to the other person’s concerns. I ask questions. I validate their feelings. And then they become defensive and accusatory. Like I have this nefarious motive or something.
“Your job must be so easy. You just listen to people all day and give advice.”
Okay—I sit in a chair all day. That part’s easy (explain that to my lower back and hips), but the rest can be challenging (and rewarding!) I am holding space for some big feelings and processing some traumatic life altering stuff day in and day out. Because of my training I know how to have effective, healthy boundaries. But I’m also human and sometimes that means experiencing some secondary trauma and emotions as client disclose difficult memories and experiences. Some days I leave work really defeated, others I am bouncing down the halls in triumph. It’s all relative.
“All therapists do is coddle people. They’re snowflakes.”
Tell me you need therapy without telling me you need therapy. But in all seriousness, therapy isn’t all rainbows and sunshine. I don’t know who created the idea that we coddle our clients but that feels so misaligned with our actual goals in session. I wonder if folks mean we are empathic, and nonjudgmental? A huge part of therapy is confrontation. We hold up metaphorical mirrors to our clients and show them how their thoughts and behaviors are negatively affecting them and those around them. We point out incongruencies in their beliefs and actions. We, often from a place of unconditional positive regard, call them on their bullshit. That’s the mark of a good therapist. So coddle? Nah. Not me.
I guess the point I am trying to make here is that all therapists are human. We want what anyone else would want—to be seen as we are, not just what we do. It’s fun to talk about work but it’s even better to connect on different topics with the folks around us. We don’t want to wear our working cap when we’re interacting with other people in a casual space. We want to engage and have fun. We also want you to know that our work is work and it’s hard and rewarding. Also—please don’t worry about us psychoanalyzing you. Freud is a hack and sometimes a cigar is just a cigar!