I’ve just added a new page containing three poems I wrote about my experience as a therapist. Since people have a tendency to view therapy as either foolish nonsense (can nonsense be foolish or is that redundant?) or some supernatural mystery, I’m hoping to give you a look behind the scenes. In truth of course, therapy is neither of foolish or supernatural and mysterious. For the most part.
However, sometimes it does seem foolish. For example, why would a client keep coming in, asking me for help, paying me for my time, and doing absolutely nothing different? And I have to confess that at times it did seem mysterious and supernatural to me (and I’m pretty sure sometimes it was both, but that’s another conversation altogether). The most common example was when a client would come in to my office all excited and enthusiastic and say, “you know that thing you said about. . .(fill in the blank here, there are unlimited possibilities). . .it changed my life,” and I would have absolutely no idea what they were talking about. In fact, I couldn’t imagine EVER having said that. Of course, I didn’t say that, I just nodded and tried to look wise (or at least reasonably intelligent).
The rest of the time, I would listen and try to help my clients figure out what they wanted to do. They already knew what they ought to do. They knew what they needed to do. They knew exactly what their parents or their siblings or their spouses or their children or their friends or their bosses wanted them to do. They knew exactly what other people needed. What they usually didn’t know was what they wanted (like me with the blog theme, you know?), although sometimes they knew and they just thought what they wanted was selfish or impossible or just plain wrong. And sometimes what they wanted was selfish or impossible or wrong, but not always. And if it was selfish, maybe it wasn’t wrong. And even if it seemed impossible (me learning the Tango at fifty-three), maybe it wasn’t really.
Certainly there are many theories about how to do therapy and many conflicting opinions within each theory, but I believe something my supervisor once told me. He said there is really only one thing a therapist needs. Curiosity. It’s important for us to want to know our clients, understand them. If we don’t really care, if we are just doing our job and think after fifteen minutes or thirty or three hours that we know our clients, we can’t possibly see the whole picture. Learning a person is like learning a language. It doesn’t happen in a few hours. Or weeks. Or months.
So it’s important that we care about our clients enough to keep asking questions even when we think we already know the answers. And then we have to listen through the silence hoping that eventually they’ll tell us the thing they’re most afraid to say.
If we don’t ask enough questions or listen long enough, we are like the doctor who sees a small hole in a person’s chest, covers it with a bandage, and never notices the bullet that made the hole in the first place. The bandage might keep new bacteria from getting in, but it fails to solve the problem that created the hole in the first place.