Thursday, May 19, 2016

What it feels like to be a therapist (after one year of practice)

I’m still trying to put words to a feeling I’ve been having about being a therapist. I will try to write “the short version” here, in hopes that I can feel that I’ve expressed this thing, and then maybe know what to do with it.
I think there are two feelings at play, which I’ll call “Awe” and “Isolation.”

Awe - It’s special work. Preparing to do it, doing it, reflecting on it, I feel purposeful, helpful, engaged in something holy (meant in a secular sense, if that’s possible). Emotionally, the awe informs feelings of both joy and fear (serving the client, failing the client), pressure and shame/ambition (feeling myself to be not enough, feeling driven to improve).

Isolation - There are so many separations built into the work!
  • Being the only therapist in the session
  • Knowing the client but not letting anyone else know that I know
  • Setting aside my own life issues to focus on someone else’s
  • Rejoining my own life and its issues following long periods of focus on others
  • Sifting through my internal reactions to the client, choosing responses
  • Developing a therapist personality, authentic and yet separate from out-of-session personality

Yeah. I think that covers a lot of it. I’ve been wanting to express this to someone (friends, family) outside of the profession all year, but I’m still not sure what I want from that interaction. Do I just want to “feel felt”? To be seen in that complex experience of connection/isolation which is k’dushah (in Hebrew, this word means ‘holy’ but it also means ‘separate’)? Maybe. Maybe I’m hoping that I will have some experience of expressing it that just leads to some catharsis.

I’m not sure. It does feel good to have a shorthand for the experience: “awe and isolation.”

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