I want to tell you about how and why I do what I do, but it's one of those things that hides from words. I know that whatever I put down here won't measure up. It's my hope that you will be able to bring it to life in a way that my words cannot. Maybe if we work together we can get close to it. Most people find me gentle, and caring and open, probably about what you would, and perhaps should, expect from a therapist. I can also be sarcastic, and even irreverent at times. I'm not everyone's cup of tea, but who is? I do bring all of me into the room when I work, and most people seem to like that. The feedback I get around that is that this is what makes my style of therapy work. This post might give you a little more of a sense of how I can show up for you.
I don't have a "professional persona" that I put on when a client walks into the room. To be clear, I am professional. I have a very high level of personal and professional integrity that protects both me and my clients. I also tend towards colorful language, and I may kick my shoes off and curl up in my chair while we are working. I don't own a tie.
I cannot expect you to be real with me if I am pretending to be someone I am not. So, you get all of me.
Keeping in mind that every session is different, and every client is coming from a slightly different place, most folks come in because there are things they want to look at that they don't feel comfortable sharing with others in their life. Other times they just need some guidance or some different tools to work with what's showing up. I work with lots of both, but this post focuses more on the former...
It's an honor for me to hear people's stories, to learn about where they've been, how they got to this place, what's working for them, and what's not. What wakes them up at night, and what keeps them up. (not always the same thing). The stories don't tumble out in our first session, it takes time, they need to trust the space that we create together. It's always on your time frame, and it usually doesn't take long.
I get to sit and hear about what's really going on. We don't do small talk, we don't chat about the weather. I say "I get to", not because it's easy, but because it's an honor. Because it humbles me every time. The courage my clients show when they risk enough to speak their truth is a gift. The gift is mostly to themselves, because of the freedom they find hidden in it, but it's also a gift to me, because these are their jewels, their treasure, that they are sharing with me.
Good therapy isn't just about listening to secrets, although I do believe there is a great value in just that simple, yet impossibly brave act of giving voice to the unspeakable. Good therapy is about being able to speak directly to whomever is showing up to tell that story. When we tell those hard secrets, we speak from that moment in time. There's an opportunity in those moments to directly address that person at the moment of the event. Maybe it was last week, maybe it was 40 years ago, it's all equally valuable.
Sometimes they just need to hear that I believe them, that it wasn't their fault. Sometimes they need to see that I can hear about something they did that was hurtful or harmful to another person, or to themselves, and that I'm still here with them. I'm not disgusted, I'm not angry, I'm not scared. I'm just here and holding that and I still see all of them, the good, the bad, and everything in between.
It's not the sharing that we fear, it's the reaction.
It's the fear of rejection, fear that we will see them the way they too often see themselves, fear that the worst of what they think of themselves is true.
Sometimes, in the space between the roaring in their ears when they share something scary, and the silence of the space between us that can hold it, something shifts for them. Just a little wedge of light that whispers to them that
Maybe you are not just this thing that happened.
It does not need to define you.
It is a part of a whole.
It's OK to let it be there, you are not alone with it.
This is a slice of what might unfold in my office, other days it's a recap of the week and an exploration of what worked (AKA, that was a good move) and what didn't (AKA that was a bad move). I tend to move back and forth from diving deep and holding space for the hard stuff, to "how was your week?". Then we get to see if we can connect the dots.