“… From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.” Luke 12:48 (AMP)
“You don’t lead by hitting people over the head – that’s assault not leadership.” Dwight D. Eisenhower
Being a therapist comes with much responsibility. It is a duty in which people entrust you with their most vulnerable thoughts and feelings. Our clients look to us to lead them through darkness and confusion into the light of knowing. At times, I believe our clients think we just sit around waiting to do therapy all day – ready to answer at their beck and call. Or maybe that is the expectation I have created for my clients – because I genuinely care about them, their feelings, and their lives. Unfortunately, I think our clients forget that we are human and have lives of our own. And our lives are not perfect because we are therapists.
We don’t really wear a superhero cape. We don’t have all the answers. We don’t know everything. We try our best to guide our clients in the best way for them. But sometimes, our lives have us living in chaos, hurt, fear, anxiety, confusion, and impostor syndrome too. Sometimes we feel unlovable, defeated, broken, tired, emotionally drained, and hopeless too. We go to therapy for our personal issues so that we have room in our psyche to help our clients process theirs. Some have a foundation of faith on which we rely to comfort us through some of the roughest times. But just like I tell my clients, “The Teacher is always silent during a test.” So, we pray and search for answers just like you. We cry. We hurt. We quit. We yell. We cuss. We fuss. We get angry. We get overwhelmed. Just like you.
Unlike you, however, we have to deal with our shit WHILE continuing to see clients. Because those of us in private practice, don’t earn a living when we don’t see clients. While money is not the motivator for me, I have come to learn that it is necessary to survive here on Earth. And I have also tried to explain this concept to God. We need money, not manna, on which to live down here. So, imagine this:
You are the one that all your friends and family come to in order to “run something by you” or “get your opinion” or “just vent.” And they start talking before ever asking how you’re doing or if you even have time to talk. They have no idea that:
- your paycheck has been jacked up over the last few pay periods,
- you have no significant savings because you’ve been trying to make ends meet,
- your significant other, whom you help in any way you can, just told you they don’t really love you but have fallen in love with someone else & want to have an open relationship,
- your youngest child just got diagnosed with asthma & will need daily breathing treatments,
- your oldest child was caught lighting fires in the school bathroom and has been suspended pending a psychological evaluation,
- your father is battling cancer,
- your kitchen floor is buckling for some unknown reason,
- your dog had to have emergency surgery that cost you $2500,
- your wages may be garnished by the IRS,
- you haven’t been able to work out for your normal stress relief because of a knee injury,
- you can’t get a doctor’s appointment until next month and even then, you still must meet your deductible,
- your car needs to be washed from when your friend got sick out the window on the way to urgent care,
- your bills are due for both your house AND your office, and
- you have no available sick leave or vacation time to just take a break from it all.
And after you finish running through this list in your head, the person, to whom you are supposed to be listening, is STILL TALKING. So, you try to stay present with a smile on your face, hear them out, offer what you can, and head home. To what? More chaos. More problems. After you’ve put out the fires at home, you are dead tired. There’s no time to even think about how you are going to pay the bills with no more money coming in for weeks. There is no time to figure out how you feel about your significant other, much less, having an open relationship. You try to sleep but your knee keeps you from getting really comfortable. Your significant other is not next to you so there’s that thought again.
What do you do? It’s almost 2:00AM and you forgot to call your therapist to make an appointment. Your friends are all asleep at this hour. You try to pray but it’s the same prayer you’ve prayed a thousand times, “I need help, Lord. I need a financial blessing. I need healing. I need peace in my life. I need a vacation. I feel like I’m drowning. Help me, Lord.” So, you cry into your pillow until you fall asleep only to hear the damn alarm clock go off four hours later. It's 6:00AM and you’ve got to face another day.
Now put yourself in the role of your therapist. Have you ever stopped to think that maybe they didn’t return your call because their kid was having an asthma attack? Have you ever thought maybe the reason they didn’t get your paperwork out early was because they had to bury a family member? Have you ever thought that the reason they cannot “fit you in this week” is because they are already booked and need to have time to eat at some point during the day? What are your therapist’s off days? Do you know? If you know them, why would you text, call, or email them on those days, much less, expect a response? If you don’t know them, you should find out because we need our personal time too. Have you ever thought to yourself, “Gee, I hope my therapist is okay” when they are late, don’t show, or have to cancel an appointment? Or do you just get annoyed or angry?
What I’m saying is going to be hard for some people to hear but I always speak my truth from a place of love and respect for what I do. All my clients know, and love, that about me. Here it is with no sugar coating:
LIFE IS NOT ALWAYS ABOUT YOU EVEN WHEN IT IS YOUR SCHEDULED APPOINTMENT TIME!
Anything could be going on. Your therapist could’ve gotten sick or fallen and hit their head. They could be talking to a suicidal client or their father’s oncologist. Their dog may have just pooped right in the middle of the floor. Their significant other could’ve just walked out. Maybe they were taking some Tylenol to combat a headache so they could go ahead and talk to you. Maybe they were taking a breathing treatment for their own asthma. Maybe their kid didn’t get off the bus. Maybe they had a flat tire. Maybe they stopped to help a neighbor. Or, maybe, they are just human and running late or forgot or fell asleep from exhaustion. Shit happens – even to your therapist. So, here is my challenge to you:
Care about your therapist as much as you want them to care about you – human being to human being - and realize that sometimes our capes are at the cleaners.
Thank you to all my clients who check on me, show me grace, give me the benefit of the doubt, send cards, pray for me, and encourage me to take time off. Thank you for your forgiveness when I fall short and for reminding me that it is okay for me to be human too sometimes. You may never know how much your caring gestures mean to me. Many a time a message from a client – “just checking on you,” “I appreciate you,” “praying for you, Dr. G,” etc. – has kept me from walking away from private practice to go get a job as a night stocker at Kroger. 😉