How did you become a psychotherapist? Or more to the point, Why?
How many times have you been asked some version of “How can you sit all day, listening to other people’s woes? Don’t you get bored?” What is practicing therapy about for you that these skeptical inquirers don’t grasp? What has held you in your chair, through the changing tides of psychotherapy, year after year, client after client?
For this issue of Voices, consider: What led you down this path? What drew you in? Perhaps it was some relationship or hurt you were trying to (or couldn’t) mend – yours or someone else’s. How did your early life experience prime you for this role? Or, what puzzle were you trying to solve, what mystery explain, that pulled you to study the workings of the brain or psyche?
What did psychotherapy look like when you were trained? What did it mean, then, to become a therapist? What does it mean now? What changes have you seen in the world of psychotherapy? What has been gained or lost? How have you changed as a therapist over time?
What unexpected curves did your journey take? What have been the highs and lows, the gifts and hurdles? What has rejuvenated you along the way? What keeps you in your chair? Or lures you from it?
The Academy is dedicated to the growth and development of the person of the therapist. How has being a therapist impacted you, the person? How have you grown through this work? How is being a therapist inseparable from who you are in life? How is it different? Do your clients see the real you or a persona? Do family and friends see the therapist you?
How has being a psychotherapist changed your life? Would you do it again?
Share your journey.
Editor: Carla Bauer, LCSW
In this issue of Voices, we explore the borders and walls we erect in our minds and with each other — barriers we use to turn ourselves into strangers. Inner and interpersonal forms of estrangement are unavoidably linked. Those we alienate may be our friends, enemies, family, professional colleagues, larger community, people diverse from us in any number of ways, or strangers that represent disowned parts of ourselves.
From micro level to macro, facing what feels alien can stir up diverse feelings, including fear of loss of identity, power, or pride; helplessness, ignorance, or vulnerability; feelings of superiority or guilt, of failure, shame, or self-loathing. Facing the other can be met with varying forms of resistance: scapegoating, aggression, othering, projecting, sub-grouping, etc.
Consider your own experience and that of your clients: What are our borders and walls for, what are they meant to protect us from, what and who are they designed to exclude? How do we use them to prevent us from understanding the other? How do our inner and interpersonal barriers mirror actual borders and walls between neighborhoods, cities, states, and countries? What are we afraid of in the other? What are we disowning in ourselves when we reject the other?
We are hard-wired to seek connection, and through connection, communion. Yet we repeatedly default to behaviors that distance us from the other. As we examine our cherished borders and walls, our profound attachment to our distortions, and we begin to imagine what it’s like being someone else, we are changed. Estrangement, when challenged, may be replaced by feelings of kinship or fellowship we have tried to disown.
For this issue, consider how these dynamics show up in your life and practice. Consider, too, how large and small group process can facilitate facing the other and breaking down walls.
We all tell our stories: of who we are, from whence we came, of life events that shaped and turned our directions. We tell stories of relationships, attachments, and encounters—what happened, who said or did what and why—recounting gifts or grievances received with lasting impact. Sometimes those stories are drawn from clear memories, well grounded in what actually happened. Sometimes our “memories” are more family lore, shaped by the stories we were told of events we were too young to remember or inherited from our ancestors, written before our time. Other times, the stories are built from screen memories, compiled from a mix of experiences, interpretations, and ascribed meanings, scripted into narratives drawn tight around us as if it all happened just so – and will always be just so.
In the age of Trumpocracy, White nationalism, #metoo, pussy hats, anti-immigration, xenophobia, the wall, fake news, diversity training, sexual harassment training, LGBTQ awareness--many of us are spinning. A sometimes-nauseating whirl of every-flavored politics, social turmoil, and a never-still news cycle permeates our day.