When you’ve studied to become a psychotherapist and they’ve told you you’re ready there comes that moment when you have to walk into a room and meet your very first client. Thankfully, for everyone involved, the client doesn’t know that you’ve never actually done this before and that you’re possibly feeling more nervous than they are.
I remember doing my very first session over a decade ago, grasping the official counseling center clipboard and the required printed intake questions covering everything from age to suicidal thoughts. I probably clung to that clipboard in the way I imagine medical students might cling to their white coats. It provided a semblance of authority or credibility when there was little else to hold on to.
That first session was strange. It was really difficult to connect. The conversation seemed to loop in a bizarrely circular kind of way. A week or so later the counseling center received a phonecall to let us know that the client had had a psychotic break and was found walking on the highway without any shoes. I never saw her again.
The more you do this work, the more you start to recognize what other people’s feeling states feel like in your own body. Anxiety. Sadness. Joy. Depression. Panic. Ease. Psychosis. It’s something no text book can tell you. I don’t think it’s exclusively a “therapy thing”. It’s happening all the time when we meet people. It’s just that most of us don’t sit there, hour after hour, paying attention to how we’re feeling in somebody’s presence. Bringing real curiosity to the experience and the relational dynamic. Figuring out how to sit with it and what to say about it in a way that’s going to be digestible and useful to the other person.
Over time I let go of the clipboard along with any formulaic idea of what a therapist was supposed to act like or sound like. I became more fully me in the way that I help clients become more fully themselves. Being authentic in session is one thing (and hopefully a skill I’ve more or less mastered) but being authentic online is a different world and one I’m much less experienced at. Nevertheless, I’m excited to announce my new website is up.
The “Discover Your Relationship Blueprint” that you can download for free is, I think, a really powerful questionnaire that can dramatically fast-track your path to a life and a relationship you really enjoy.
I’d love for you to check it out and let me what you think. I suspect the website doesn’t quite do justice to the dark nights of the soul on our individual journeys (there are probably a few too many photos of me in sunny Californian landscapes for that) but I really like it. And if motherhood has cured me of anything it’s my perfectionism. In other words the website is up and live.
And in case you’re wondering, there is no art to doing things that are new to you. At some point you just have to take the plunge and give it a go, ideally with somebody holding your hand. A big thank you to Zsofi and Alison for helping make the website a reality.