I help people who don’t want to turn out like their parents. So most of my clients have a few things in common, such as anxiety, depression, relationship struggles, codependency, self hatred, and feeling like they don’t really know who they are. I keep my caseload small for my clients and myself; I want to provide the best service possible and keep my own mental health and wellbeing in check.
Recently, someone asked me how I deal with listening to people’s stories and trauma for 45 minutes to an hour and then just switch off the camera and go on to the next person or the next event in my own life. The truth is, I don’t. I generally have thoughts running quietly in the back of my mind about the clients I met with over the last week. I think about everything from the event they are looking forward to this weekend to whether or not my tone came across the way I intended at the end of a session to what new treatment techniques I need to review for next week’s sessions.
Some days with clients are celebrations of successes, accomplishments, and insights. Others are spent sitting quietly, holding space for the pain and confusion of suffering inflicted upon children, who are now adults, trying to make sense of it all. It’s a lot. I see beauty and tragedy and a lot of in-between.
Many weeks, themes develop in these sessions…none of my clients know each other and yet they are all struggling with so many similar challenges. One week, it seems like we are all talking about how to validate others, another week, we are all talking about how to speak up for ourselves. It is strange to me, and yet a phenomenon that is actually not all that uncommon for therapists who have a specialized niche. Presumably, everyone is coming in for the same thing, so there would be themes that emerge. That they seem to occur in the same week, despite various lengths of time in counseling still fascinates me.
And it makes me want to write something at the end of each week to my amazing clients. This week, for example, I want to tell them how hard they have been working. Remind them it has been an incredibly difficult week and that they have made some great progress amidst the chaos. As a client myself, I know it is bewildering to hear this from your therapist. You are sitting in your mess and having all these big feelings and scary thoughts and aha moments and someone sitting on the outside is saying, “Great job! Look at you go!”. These are the moments I want to insert the Chloe meme (of the little girl looking side to side with her eyes…google it if you don’t know what I mean).
This week, I want to remind everyone who has felt frustrated that they haven’t seen what they think is “so obvious” on their own, that no one can do this work alone. Even heart surgeons don’t perform their own open heart surgeries. Fish cannot comprehend the water they swim in, drink, and breathe through, though we can see it clearly from the outside.
I hope you have a wonderful weekend. Find some time to breathe. Drink your water. If you had some insights or aha moments, eat some protein; it’s good for your brain and all those new neural pathways you are trying to develop :-)
If you’ve read this far, thank you. We got this.
Image description: goldfish floating in a fishbowl of water
Cindy Goeller is a licensed therapist who loves listening to others, eating Maryland steamed crabs, and exploring the Finger Lakes of New York. When she is not in session with her clients, she can be found writing, baking, or spending time with her family.