The Sabbatical

The Sabbatical

Discovering My Self on a Car Lot

By Zachary Taylor

January/February 2020

My officemate called it the “help me” squeak—the shrill, piercing noise my desk chair made each time I leaned back in it. It was the kind of noise only a decades-old swivel chair could make as it shrieked at having yet another therapist burden its decrepit frame.

As much as I hated that chair, assigned to me by the agency, I empathized with it, as only a good Rogerian therapist could do. I felt about as worn out and on the verge of collapse as that chair, and every day I sat in it, I wished someone would help me, too. Hour after hour, I’d do my best to offer the suffering people who filed in and out my office some kind of emotional relief—and then I’d slump in front of the computer to complete an ever-growing lineup of required documentation, which would take up more and more of each client’s session, as well as my evenings.

Like most of us, I started graduate school with grand visions of what it meant to be a therapist—and I was passionate about becoming a great one. I poured myself into every book I could get my hands on, learned all the latest techniques, and drove for hours to attend trainings with the “gurus” of the field. I even signed up to participate in one of the now famous hand-holding studies at UVA’s Affective Neuroscience Lab, where they put me in an fMRI tube while randomly delivering an electric shock to my ankle to see what my brain did while holding the hands of a loved…

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1 Comment

Wednesday, January 22, 2020 10:02:59 AM | posted by Elaine Wells
I loved the easy story-telling style of this article, and the author’s non-defensive way of coping with his coworkers teasing. I admired his ability to adapt to their ways of interacting. Thanks for pointing out the absurdity of our bureaucratic system, which takes highly trained, deeply motivated therapists away from the clients we are intended to serve, and turns them into pencil pushers whose time and talent is wasted on creating more paperwork, which ultimately helps no one. Why do we put up with this? Lauren Elaine Wells, M.S. The Couples Coach