Family, friends, and strangers often ask me what it’s like being a therapist. It is important to note: I just got here, so I may not be the best person to ask at this point. I completed my Doctorate in Psychology a few months ago, and I’m now completing a postdoctoral residency at Psychological Counseling Services.
I am not new to life, however, nor am I new to the trauma that can occur once thrown into this difficult and beautiful life. I am a combat veteran (Afghanistan) where I was a medic for the United States Army. I played in rock-n-roll bands for 20 years prior to that, and I worked in the hospitality industry for a decade as well. Most of it was really fun. You could say that I have lived among the people, dealing with real life problems, making all sorts of human mistakes. I then transformed several messes into something more productive and beautiful. I joke with my colleagues that I got to the game (clinical psychology) late because I spent my first three decades gathering personal research on trauma. Though I joke, it is very true. Now, I’m a pre-licensed clinical psychologist, and people of all kinds ask me what it’s like. They want to know what it is like holding someone’s darkest secrets and knowing the most intimate details of their life.
So far, I can tell you that it is sacred. I walk on hallowed ground every moment that I am in the presence of a client. Being a therapist can be demanding, as it requires that you do your own inner work, applying the knowledge you learn in school to your own personal life. It means getting in touch with your inner child and listening. It means getting in touch with your most vulnerable self and daring to heal. It means learning to say yes and learning to say no. It means having boundaries with family and friends, with all people truly. Being a therapist means waking up before the job to work out or taking your dog around the block as the sun is rising. It is practicing the same mindfulness you teach your clients. It’s practicing tolerance in traffic, in politics, in uncomfortable emotions. It’s sharing space. It’s taking healthy chances. It’s investing in your cells, so it is drinking water and balancing your diet. It’s going to bed early. It’s being physically and mentally active, socializing, and cooperating within a community. It’s having compassion for yourself when you stumble. Being a therapist is turning your own past trauma into healing and growth, subsequently shining a light for others.
A few have said, “Therapists sound superhuman.” I answer with this: It is simply important that we therapists practice what we preach, that we lead by example, that we ensure what we bring to the table is our inner, wiser Self who has been tried and is true, who is fluid and ever-changing, ever-growing, always being. No, we’re not superhuman. We are extra human, and our responsibility to our clients is “to do good and to do no harm.” It means all the things mentioned throughout this article. We are not superhuman. We are extra human, falling and succeeding in our own everyday lives often and regularly.
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