1. We don’t have all of the answers.
Generally speaking, if you are seeking out therapy it’s because you are facing some form of a problem. As human beings, it is completely innate for us to want to implement a solution that will yield immediate, positive results. Instant gratification, right? Unfortunately, people are significantly more complex than a leaky faucet. If your sink is leaking and running up your water bill, the solution is easy enough. Call a plumber and your problem is solved- usually within a few hours. When dealing with complex matters of human thoughts, behavior and emotions, the solution is not as easy as calling a counselor, and your problem certainly will not be solved within a matter of hours. It’s not as simple as identifying a problem and writing a prescription to “cure” or “fix” it. The lack of instant gratification and immediate answers from counselors often leaves people feeling frustrated and wondering why we won’t just tell them exactly what it is that they “need to do.” Truth be told, if you have an honest, effective counselor they will offer very little advice (if any at all), never tell you what you need to do and will not pretend to know what you need to do. You know yourself better than we do. We are only here to help you facilitate your own personal growth.
2. We aren’t here to judge you.
It’s not our place. To put it bluntly, there are very few things you can say that will shock us. If we haven’t heard it all, we’ve come pretty close. Now, this doesn’t mean that you and your situation are not unique and shouldn’t be treated as such. Every individual has a unique story and should never be categorized or treated with a “cookie cutter” method. It just means that we won’t go running for the hills when you tell us your story, and we will not treat you any differently or with any less respect. Your potential for positive growth far exceeds the sum of your past mistakes (and we all make them).
3. We really do care, and we really aren’t in it for the paycheck.
If I had a dollar for every time a client said to me “You don’t even care – you’re just here because you get paid,” I’d have… Well, I’d have several dollars. Strangely enough, and unbeknownst to my clients, the first two times I heard this statement I wasn’t even getting paid. At that time, I was at an inpatient treatment facility and was working 40+ hours a week for free because I genuinely enjoyed being there and I genuinely cared for my clients. Granted, I was receiving internship hours in lieu of a paycheck, but I could have received those hours almost anywhere, and on paper those hours would have counted exactly the same.
Now, let me clarify one thing. Do I care about my paycheck? Absolutely. It’s how I support myself. Some of us are just lucky enough to have the opportunity to do what we love and get paid to do it. If we were just looking to get rich, many of us would have chosen a different field. We spend our time and resources with you because we care and we want to see you do well. Trust me, running into or hearing from a previous client and hearing them say “I’m doing great, and I’m really happy” is worth more than any paycheck we’ve ever received.
4. We can’t do the work for you.
If you give me 100%, I will give you 110%. If you give me 50%, I’ll still give you 100%, but we won’t get very far. You will take away as much as you put in. Your journey is your responsibility. We are only here to help.
5. We relate to you.
We are equal to you. We have good days, bad days and the kind of days that make us wonder why we bothered getting out of bed in the morning. Sometimes, we even find ourselves sitting in the chair across from a counselor as the client. A list of credentials and a title does not make us any less fallible than you. At some point, our lives have been chaotic and messy too. We will often find ourselves relating to you, your situations and your feelings. Our situations may not be exactly the same as yours or even remotely similar, but we can almost always relate to you in some way even if it’s just simply based on universal humanity. If nothing else, we will always know what it’s like to be human. And anyone who knows what it’s like to be human can empathize with your struggles, your triumphs and all of the “in-betweens”.