Sunday, September 24, 2017

It Will Come

I've wanted to be a therapist from the first time I needed a therapist.

I was eighteen years-old, oblivious to the need for any outside help, swimming in my own denial and invisible shame. I remember arriving to the address, sitting in my car, and being so embarrassed of walking inside. Wanting to crawl out of my own skin and into anyone else's to avoid this appointment, this feeling that there was anything so wrong with me that I had to be here. But I went inside because my attendance was required before I would be allowed to go out-of-state for college.

And I met Jane. Who was kind and gentle and sincere. She didn't push. She didn't prod. She just listened without judgment. She actually affirmed things that were hard or unjust or unfair. She made me feel like I wasn't crazy and I was going to be okay.

Later, I met Teresa.
And Stella.
And Marsha.
And Lynn.
And Katie.

And these women set aside an hour at a time for me. Just for me. To listen. To observe. To notice. To comment. But mostly, just to be with me as I walked my own path.

Therapists are some of the kindest people I know. They are also some of the wisest people I know. They are interesting. They write fascinating books. They seem to have a presence about them that is calm and comforting and safe. And what I gathered from the hours I've spent with therapists, is that you have to be a certain kind of person. Like, in the book The Giver, (or, now that I think about it, Divergent, too), how everyone is given a profession--a purpose--and there's no getting out of it. That's just what you were born to do. And so I imagined "The Therapist" up on a pedestal as some kind of sage for society. A voice of reason. A role unique to their DNA. Like the Dalai Lama. But wearing clogs.

And then, I found out there were schools where you could go to learn to be a therapist! There were places that would allow everyday people like me who really, really wanted to be wise, a chance to be so lucky. A chance to be wise.

But what I've learned in graduate school, and most recently in my internship is that they'll let anybody be a therapist! Within the boundaries of ethics and proper education, it turns out nobody really has wisdom just flowing through their DNA. Therapists will steal your lunch right out of the fridge, cut you off in traffic, and make mistakes just like the rest of us.

Darn it.

So I've found myself asking out of absolute necessity: Well, then what does it mean to be a therapist?
Because now I'm in the other chair.
And I need to know.
Like, yesterday.

If this thing is not something a select-few are born into.
It it's not an elite club.
If therapists don't have a corner on the market in terms of wisdom.
What gives us the nerve to try to be helpful at all?

I find myself wanting more assurance than is available to me. I want a philosophy. A lens.  An outline. A cheat sheet. And when I express this to my supervisors (and just about anyone else who will listen to me), they keep saying the same annoying thing:

"It'll come. 
You know more than you know. 
Trust your intuition."

I know, right?
Maddening.

Apparently, it's less about interventions and theoretical perspectives and inspiring one-liners that clients will stitch onto a throw pillow. What I need to do right now, is exactly what I already know how to do:
Which is to sit.
And listen.
To be present.
And curious.
To be affirming.
And compassionate.

Just like others have done for me.

I trust that the rest will come.



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