The Privilege of Being a Therapist.
I have looked forward to a career as a therapist since I was in 12th grade when I decided to take up psychology as a subject to study further. As I look back, I realize how limited my understanding of what it is like to be a therapist was. Nonetheless, I am thankful that I took that decision and stuck by it because I truly love the work I do every day, and I don’t think I can even imagine myself doing something else.
Being a therapist does not always look the same, the more I work, the more I continue to understand how multifaceted this role is. There are certainly some occupational hazards, but maybe I will write about it some other time. For now, I want to rejoice in the privilege that this role brings, because it has been one of the blessings I have been writing about in my gratitude list for a while.
Many reasons make my heart content, and I am sure there will be many that I haven’t witnessed or realized yet. For now, these are a few reasons why I love being a therapist:
Seeing life and the world from different perspectives:
As a therapist, I talk to many different people, people from different cultures, professions, ideologies, beliefs, and so forth. These people allow me into their worlds, often quite intimately. They tell me about how they view life, and how the world looks from their eyes, always opening my eyes to varied perspectives and beliefs. It makes me want to be more open-minded, it pushes me to broaden my lens at times, and it continues to remind me that reality is only perspective.
Getting to learn from the wisdom each client has:
Every person extracts a certain meaning, ideology, and wisdom from their life experience. Some of it they extract alone, and some of it they uncover with me during the therapy hour. I am always astonished by how much I learn from the wisdom that each person holds in their understanding. I don’t think clients realize how often they touch their therapists or teach them about life, people, and what it is like to be a human. Clients teach me about life, about how to be a better therapist, a better partner, a better listener, and a better human, and that learning to me will always remain invaluable.
Having the opportunity for meaningful relational encounters:
We all have an inherent need for connection, maybe at varying intensities. But I think mine would never have been met had I not been a therapist. Since childhood I have always found myself relationally available for people, interested in their emotional life, and in lending them an ear. I consider myself a highly sensitive person, and I find a lot of contentment in deep, meaningful encounters. And since I am also an introvert, I have the best of both worlds as a therapist. Clients let me into their sanctuaries and invite me into their worlds courageously and openly. I see that as sacred, and love investing in our therapeutic relationship honestly and authentically. Sometimes, I share a bit of my world with them, sometimes I share how I feel about them, or how they make me feel. I know clients make the therapist a part of their world, but I am not sure if they know that they become a part of their therapist’s world too.
Witnessing raw human-ness:
People do not always show who they are authentically in the world around them, and rightfully so because we all need to self-protect and be wise enough to know where we can be vulnerable. Therapy is often the space where people are themselves, they are vulnerable, and even if they are afraid, they push themselves to rip their costumes away. I love being present to see raw-human-ness dance. I find myself annoyed with the pretense around, or the hiding or suppressing who we truly are as vulnerable, fragile, or even desperate. Because society is often conditioned in a way to see many aspects of being human as weak, I like that I am continuously reminded that it is all a façade. That it is all abnormal. I like to be reminded that we are all more similar than we are different and that at the end of the day, we are all trying to figure it out. I also love facilitating space for people to take that emotional breath, to be openly human even if it is just for an hour.
Getting to practice being comfortable with the uncomfortable
When you are sensitive to pain, you can also be impatient with it, be it your pain or that of your clients. When I started practicing, I remember having this urge to bring them immediate solace. As I look back now, I realize that even though it still impacts me to see my clients in discomfort as it should, I observe that the intensity of the urge has changed. I understand that suffering is a part of life, and I am learning to sit with it personally as well as professionally when I witness another in pain. I also understand now the importance of letting my clients sit with the feeling and allowing them the independence to find their way out instead of me wanting to save them.
Getting to dip my feet deep into my human-ness
It is not just clients who experience numerous emotions in therapy, but also the therapist. Since this work is relational and intimately involves the ‘therapist’s self’, as a therapist I get to experience a range of emotions. I have felt proud, lonely, guilty, ashamed, content, and dissatisfied, to name a few in the therapeutic space. My supervisor once told me how countertransference (therapist projecting their unresolved conflict onto the client) is almost always there if you look carefully, and that it is not always counterproductive. I get to touch my own being as deep as it gets being a therapist.
Having tons of opportunities for self-reflection, and enhanced self-awareness
Being a therapist brings along a side effect, that of enhanced self-awareness. Clients can be a mirror for a lot of our stuff, their experience, work, or sharing can trigger the therapist. Authentic relational encounters often show you who you truly are, highlight your blind spots, and what you have been hiding or suppressing, and it does not just take place for the client but also for the therapist. I have always been invested in my self-growth, and truly enjoy self-reflection which is the reason why I do not mind this side effect it is one of my favorite things about this work. The work that we do with clients also transforms us radically, bringing the opportunity to be a better human, for ourselves and all our relationships.
Caring about others and channeling compassion daily
We are wired for connection, we have the capacity for compassion and caring which when stimulated makes us feel whole, makes us feel like life matters and is meaningful. I love how this work opens my heart to care not just for myself but others too. I like that I have this continuous opportunity to channel my compassion and let it work as a shield against my ego or pride. I love that it reminds me of some of the life principles that I hold valuable, like being in service, being authentic, being humble, and knowing that healing is as inevitable as suffering is and that humans can transcend beyond deep suffering.
I am looking forward to more reflection on this privilege as I continue to work and learn more, however, I want to add how I would not have been able to witness, observe and realize the beauty of being one had I not worked with all the beautiful humans who opened up to me bravely. I am grateful to each person I have worked with, and all of those I am yet to align with. I want to let all clients in therapy know that you touch our worlds as deeply as you think we do and that we continue to learn from you.