When Your Supervisor's A Tough Crowd

When Your Supervisor's A Tough Crowd

Learning to Take the Lead

By Mark O'Connell

November/December 2021

The moment before a client meets a therapist is not unlike sitting in a theater just before curtain. The drama about to unfold will inevitably pale in comparison to the anticipation of what could be. Such was my experience the moment before I met my clinical supervisor at the mental health center at which I planned to earn my license hours.

As I approached his office, I imagined his warm, welcoming presence, and the enduring support this wizard of therapy would offer me. But suddenly, a cranky man resembling comedian Jon Lovitz opened the door. I tried to remain positive. Maybe he’ll be funny, I thought. I inhaled deeply as I entered, preparing for an ideal education. Then I began to talk about my work. “So, I have a client who . . . .”

"Oh my God,” he interrupted. “Is it hot in here? Can we turn on the air?" Anguished, he flapped the lapels of his blazer.

Don’t make this about yourself, I thought, trying to ignore the hot tingle of embarrassment and frustration in my cheeks. Being a good therapist means being humble and resilient. Interruptions are part of life. His abrupt cries of discomfort are not about you. I had done some reading on narcissism and did not want him to think I had it.

As I propped myself up, I began to describe the first client on the list I’d prepared: her presenting problem, her history, my formulation. Jon Lovitz’s brow furrowed as if he were in pain, or as if I were emanating…

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