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. Many therapists speak of the privilege of witnessing another’s authenticity, beyond the cheery “I’m fine” presentations of self that human beings work so hard to maintain. In the process, clinicians get the chance to experience a particular depth of connection with clients that’s unlike any other. And 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.
The stories that follow, originally composed for a special storytelling event at this year’s Networker Symposium, invite us into those moments. Most therapists will recognize them. 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. In one of…