I have been working with a client for a number of weeks on a short piece of work. Recently we mutually agreed to end their sessions as they had made remarkable progress in just four weeks. It became clear to me that we no longer needed the frequency of sessions and so I put the question to them of whether or not they thought they still needed to come to counselling.
I think this is important - it is for me and I believe it is also for my clients - that we acknowledge the goals that are set at the start of therapy and that we regularly recap to understand how we are progressing. In this case, progress had been so great that the initial goal of eight sessions was no longer relevant.
Upon ending this work my client asked me what its like to be a therapist. And in the midst of running a business, being a business, marketing, blogging, undertaking further training, attending supervision and doing the seemingly endless admin (which I secretly love so please don't feel too sorry for me) I took a moment to ponder what it is actually like to be a therapist. What is it like to sit with someone who is new to me and I to them, and for them to trust me enough to tell me things that they are ashamed of, frightened of, their past hurts and their future hopes.
There's no mistaking that it is a position of privilege, and also pressure. The pressure to be a "good therapist" is omnipresent for the majority of therapists, in my opinion. Only last week I made an Instagram post about how I'd had a good day and had deemed myself a "good therapist". But that's by my own standards. One of those being sure to approach the therapy humbly and accept the things that my clients tell me without judgement and compassion. It's about listening attentively and searching my brain for the wisdom and theory that I have studied so that I can relay it in a relevant way for the individual who sits in front of me.
It's also about being prepared - for people who might not turn up (which I'm pleased to say rarely happens but is a factor in this profession) and about not taking that personally. Understanding that if someone is going through something difficult, that their intention is almost never to annoy or punish me. And to hold that welcoming space for when they do feel able to return.
I suppose one of the things that people ask me most is - how is it to be a therapist and have friends? Or a relationship? Or a family? Or parents?
The answer is, that it's just the same for me as it is for you. I know that when I was in training I looked at my tutors as some kind of wise beings whom I assumed had perfect lives. But allow me to reassure you that my life is as complex as your own. I still suffer losses, and grief, and happiness, and excitement in the same way as you do. I might process some of it in a different way using the skills that I have learned in my training, and for that I am grateful.
It then feels only right to pass this learning on to my clients so that they, in turn, can be their most content, resilient version of their selves.
Laura is an online talking therapist and writer specialising in working with millennials and the LGBTQI+ community.