Many people wonder how therapists manage to do the work they do. How can we sit in a chair week after week for hours on end, listening to other people’s pain and longing? What could possibly make it worthwhile? There’s more than one answer, of course. But when clients take a leap that propels them out of some longstanding, misery-making behavior, therapists feel their own hearts lift.
Most clinicians experience these luminous moments, but of the thousands of meaningful sessions that take place in a therapist’s office, certain ones stand out. They’re the ones that shake us to the core, experiences so powerful that years—sometimes decades—later, we still remember them.
In Margie Nichols's "In the Valley of the Shadow," originally composed for a special storytelling event at the 2016 Networker Symposium, she invited us to experience the moment that was most transformative in her own clinical work.
Margaret Nichols, PhD, is a licensed psychologist and AASECT certified sex therapy supervisor working in the LGBTQ community. She’s the founder of New Jersey’s Institute for Personal Growth.
Most therapists will recognize transformative stories like Margie's. Sometimes, a seemingly ordinary observation we make turns out to be revelatory to a client. At other times, we may hold our breath and take an enormous risk, having no clue whether it’ll fly or fail. Or something shattering happens to a client that allows him or her to seize life, rather than lose faith in it.
What’s clear to most clinicians, though, is that the work they do is breathtakingly intimate. We’re witnesses to the deepest nooks and crannies of human experience. We get to be present for the most vital stories of people’s lives.
Did you enjoy this video? Check out the other storytelling pieces from our other Symposium presenters in the May/June 2016 issue of the Networker, Unexpected Gifts: Six Master Therapists Recall Their Most Unforgettable Sessions.
If you'd like to hear more about Margie's work, check out her article, The Great Escape: Welcome to the World of Gender Fluidity, in which she explains how cultural attitudes about gender variance have undergone a profound shift, why much of what therapists currently believe about what it means to be transgender is now hopelessly outdated, and how people know when they're the wrong gender.