Therapists hold space like no one else. In recent decades, psychotherapy has sought to model itself after the medical profession, and like doctors trained to exude clinical calm, we’ve been encouraged to draw a curtain around our own challenges.
During sessions with even our most distraught clients, we can seem so at ease with the messy truths of human existence that we risk seeming as if we’re above it. At its best, our professional equanimity can be a healing balm for people in pain, giving them the freedom to express themselves without the fear of overwhelming someone else.
But we also know another truth, of course: therapists suffer plenty. Just like our clients, we deal with a cauldron of feelings, navigate imperfect relationships, suffer illnesses, and endure calamities. We grieve. We rage. We exult. We’re subject to stubborn bouts of ennui, even severe, relentless depression. Yes, we have years of training and can access specialized knowledge and a community of expert colleagues willing to help us accelerate positive changes in our lives. But our professional expertise doesn’t always mean we have the answers. Our out-of-the-office days can be rich with discovery and love, and they can be riven with fear, frustration, mortification, and grief.
Sometimes a focus on our meaningful work can buoy us when the pain in our own lives is pulling us down. But at other times, we might feel that what’s working to create meaning for our clients hasn’t shifted…