What is a Therapist?

Aside

Over the years as I have continued my studies in psychotherapy, I have often been amazed at how varied and diverse the profession is. I started off with a general idea of what it meant to be a therapist and since then have found not only that my idea has grown in scope and complexity but that there are many different paths that people have taken towards the same goal. There are many different roads towards becoming a therapist and each bring their own perspectives and ideas on the profession. Often one is no more effective than the other even though they may differ greatly.

Since I have begun working as a therapist, this awareness has been reinforced by the diversity of perspectives and expectations that clients have of therapists and the therapeutic process. Depending on their background, their past experience with the mental health and their goals for coming to therapy, their concept of who I am, or what my role is as a therapist can look pretty different.

Rather than just talking about the different perspectives that people have of therapists, I thought it would be interesting to use this blog as an opportunity to hear from different people’s perspectives and highlight some of the similarities and differences that exist.

In the comments section below, write the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the question “What is a Therapist?”.

It could be a word, or an image, or a feeling or a more elaborate description depending on what feels right to you. In this there’s no right or wrong answers, only different perspectives.

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One Word

She glanced up momentarily as her hands relentlessly picked away at a tissue in her lap, eyes moist and reddened, yet unable to mask an inner resolve as hard as steel.  The counsellor across from her shifted in his chair, and casually folded one leg over the other.  When he spoke, it was with a quiet hope that his voice would not waver.

“There’s one last thing I’d like for us to do.  It’s a visualization, of sorts.  Just a way  for you to have something to take away that will help remind you of the work we’ve done here.”

As he spoke, her awareness drifted back to her fingers as they tore nervously at the tissue.  Knowing that it was all coming to an end, she eventually looked back up at him and nodded, a mix of apprehension and curiosity washing over her.  He took a breath and nodded as well.  Her fingers went still.

“I’d like you to reach into this bag and choose one of the small rocks inside.  It’s going to be your rock, so take a moment and pay attention to how you are making your choice,” he said as he passed her a small ziploc bag full of small, smooth stones.  A look of interest flashed across her face and she began to carefully feel several rocks before selecting two, feeling each in the palm of her hand.  After a moment of thoughful examination, she made her choice.  A roundish one, uniform gray in colour.

“Great.  I’d like you just to hold on to that rock in your hand for a minute.  Now, I’d like you just to take a deep breath and make yourself as comfortable as possible in your chair.  Plant your feet firmly on the ground, and close your eyes, if you’re comfortable.  We’re just going to take a few moments to reflect on what coming here has been like…”

As he spoke, calmly and evenly, thoughts and images of the last several months began to race into her mind.  She saw herself in the waiting room, fidgeting nervously and keenly aware of others’ sideways glances.  The long walk down that hallway to his office, trying to make idle conversation.  The familiar, crippling fear she felt when she first decided to come for help that had never completely gone.  The pain, the panic, the frustration.

“…now, as you’re recalling all of these memories and sitting in that experience, just try to let a word come to mind that seems to fit for you.  Just one word, one that wants to come on its own.  Don’t look too hard.”

Several moments passed as the air in the room thickened.  He watched the thoughtful expression on her face twist up for a moment, then suddenly, a single tear shot down her cheek.  She opened her eyes, and let him know that she had found her word.

“Here is a marker.  Now, if you’d like, you can write your word on the rock, and it will be my gift to you.”

She didn’t hesitate as she reached for the pen and carefully drew onto her rock the word that had so clearly come to mind as she remembered the fear, the anxiety, and the many, many tears.  She turned the rock over to show him what she had wrote, and in clear, purposeful lettering, one word was scrawled:

“Strength.”