How awesome is my therapist? Let me count the ways.
Actually, I won’t do that. I’ve already described in many other posts why he totally rocks. I don’t think I’m idealizing how great he is. Well, maybe just a little, but I think it’s pretty normal.
I’m just going to describe one of the many reasons why he’s so awesome, because this is something that happened last night.
He’s not afraid to show his vulnerability. He’s not afraid to show me he has emotions. This helps me, because it makes it safer for me to express my own buried emotions. I never had a therapist who did that before, and I think that’s why my other therapists could never get through to me and I’d eventually quit.
So what happened was this. He came out of his office as usual to greet me, but he did something a little different than usual. Normally, he just smiles at me and tells me he’s glad to see me (and I know he really is), then leads me into the room, and pulls up his chair so he’s facing me about three feet away. He has never laid a hand on me, but puts the least amount of distance between us I will allow.
Last night, he smiled but his smile looked sad. He looked tired and a little pale. He sighed and sat down in the chair on the other side of the end table in his waiting room. He said, “You don’t mind if I decompress for a minute, do you?”
“No, of course not,” I said, surprised. I didn’t really know what else to say. I stared at him, waiting, and somewhat intrigued. He was resting his head in his hands, elbows on knees. I wanted to give him a hug, but I didn’t.
He looked at me sheepishly. “Difficult session,” he said. Then he got up from the chair and said “Alright, I’m okay now.” I followed him inside.
That might sound weird or even unethical. After all, some people think a therapist should not share their emotions with a client, especially if those emotions involved another client. But I never see the client that comes in ahead of me. They go out a different door than I come in. I don’t even know the client’s gender.
My therapist has shown vulnerability at other times too. Once or twice, he got teary-eyed. Not crying or actual tears rolling down his face (that would be awkward and I might be tempted to run), but I could tell what I was saying made him a little emotional. He also tells me he looks forward to our visits. I don’t think there are any romantic or sexual feelings, though I could be wrong. I just think he’s more open than most therapists about the way he feels, and I think that’s what makes him so good at what he does.
My therapists’s willingness to show vulnerability has a few benefits for me:
— It makes me trust him and hence, be more willing to show my own vulnerability. I simply can’t let my emotions loose if I’m dealing with a block of wood who does nothing but stare wordlessly at me and writes things on pad of paper.
— He shows empathy for me, which helps me feel empathy for my true self (inner child), and this self-empathy then expands toward others, so I become a more empathic person.
— I feel like sometimes he models emotion for me. For example, if I’m angry but am dissociated from that anger and can’t really feel it, he picks up on it and models anger. Not at me, but toward whatever it is he thinks is making me angry. Like, one time I was talking about the time my dad stole the little picture booklets I had drawn when I was about 7 or 8; these little journals were meant for no eyes but my own. I felt violated by that, but wasn’t able to feel the anger. I kept making excuses for my dad and saying it shouldn’t have bothered me. My therapist actually looked angry and said, “I don’t care if you’re mad at him or not, I’m mad at him for violating your boundaries like that.” After that I was able to experience the anger I felt and work through that.
Whether what he’s doing is intentional or not doesn’t matter. What he’s doing is working with me. He’s an empath who holds the key to the buried parts of my mind that no one could even come close to unlocking.