Thursday, June 14, 2012

On Being a Therapist

Every once in a while, I feel like I'm really good at what I do. Lots of other times, I feel like I'm decent at what I do. Sadly, there are days when I feel I don't know what I'm doing. This post will be about the former. Of course, names and most details will have to be left out.

I loooove couple's therapy. I saw a couple earlier this week for their first session. The man had come in by himself last week, and strongly resisted my urges to bring his wife in, stating that they had tried couple's therapy once or twice before and she had a tendency to become angry and storm out. They had never made it past a single session together. He insisted that bringing her in would not be helpful; I continued to insist that if he wanted to save his marriage, coming in by himself could actually have the opposite effect (I did not make that idea up, it is substantiated by therapy research). Anyway, he surprised me by bringing her in, and the session went great. Afterward, I was the first to exit the room we were meeting in. They lagged behind me by several seconds, and I wasn't sure why, so I backtracked to see why they weren't coming out of the room. There they were, embracing and kissing. I quietly turned and left them there, so happy. I know it's a small thing, but it was really gratifying to see some immediate relief of a huge rift in their relationship (he'd been sleeping on the couch for several months).

Then today, I saw one of my court-ordered teens. This kid is tough, and he's probably in a gang. He doesn't like me much because he thinks most white people are racist and I haven't been able to convince him otherwise. He usually alternates between refusing to talk and glaring at me with such intense hatred that I think he's going to leap out of his chair and pummel me. I've actually been quite terrified a few times. Anyway, we had a breakthrough moment today. It came after he told me to shut up, I told him I wasn't going to let him speak to me that way, and then he glared at me so intensely I had to look away because I was so afraid he was going to hurt me. His mother, who was in session with us, pointed out that she felt he was angry because his dad wasn't involved in his life. As furious as he was with her for sharing this, he began to cry and cry and cry. I could tell he was mad at himself for showing that kind of emotion. He insisted he didn't need his dad. I agreed that he (my client) was a very strong person and probably didn't need his dad, but offered the idea that dad's disinterest still was hurtful, and that my client deserved to be cared for by his dad. It just wasn't fair. He kept crying as I talked. Later, his mom let me know she hadn't seen him express emotion like that for 3 years. My heart ached for him, but I felt like something about our session had been successful. It probably sounds weird, but I think it's really good for people to cry sometimes.

And that is why, sometimes, I feel like I'm really good at what I do. And why I'll probably keep doing it. Change happens oh-so slowly much of the time, so these kinds of moments make it all worth it.  


  1. Awesome experiences! What a cool job you have to really be able to see people change and have their lives made better. Way to go!

  2. Thanks, Audge! It is a cool job...sometimes. Hey, did I hear you're expecting? So exciting!


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