Does your therapist have a therapist?
Yep, many of us do! We face similar challenges to those of our clients and we often need help understanding and exploring things. Despite being part of the field, many mental health clinicians struggle with finding a therapist with whom to connect. Many also struggle with the idea of attending therapy, as there is a myth that we have all the things together all of the time.
I started attending therapy in grad school. My initial goal in therapy was to get an idea of what my future clients might feel when they sit across from me. At first, I thought I wouldn’t have much to talk about. That quickly was proven WRONG and I was asking for weekly sessions: cut to a scene of me attending weekly therapy for about 5yrs of grad school. It was the first time someone acknowledged and gave language to my symptoms: my difficulty getting out of bed? That’s depression. My inability to sleep without checking all the locks and leaving lights on? That’s anxiety mixed with a bit of trauma. Finding myself crying, shaking, hyperventilating, and certain of impending doom? Good ole panic attack! Who knew that wasn’t just the grad school identity package.
Things were tough during that time period. Less so because of the whole Ph.D. thing, and moreso because life kept happening while I was going to class and training to provide therapy. I was dealing with various family, personal and professional issues, while beginning to talk about childhood experiences, and navigating the world of academia as a Black Caribbean-American first-generation student. Yeah...it was a lot and sometimes I didn’t want to talk, because avoiding things was going just fine, thank you. My therapist made me feel valued, listened to, validated and cared about. She helped me identify the “me“ the outside world sees, and the “me“ that only a select few see. We began working to integrate those selves into the awesome person I am today 😉. Last week, I found myself thinking about my current therapist and the work we have been doing weekly for over two years (There were others before him...let’s not talk about those.) He thinks 2x a week would be good. But, as I told my previous therapist, “I’M TOTALLY FINE 😭🤫😳🤯“ In choosing my therapist, I knew that I needed someone with solid cultural awareness. I knew I needed someone capable of guiding me through explorations of my identity and how my past life experiences connect to present day actions. Seven months into weekly therapy, I arrived at my Doc’s office dressed in oversized clothes, wrapping myself in a large sweater, wearing my coke-bottle lens glasses and less put together than usual. It was 7mos (about 25 sessions) into therapy and it was the first time I cried in front of my therapist...at this point, I remember to wear waterproof mascara. Even though I’m a psychologist, therapy is sooooo haaarrrddd. Yet, imma keep going every single week because I continue to learn about myself, my tendencies and patterns. I’m usually exhausted after my session with my therapist because I’m working hard, dammit! Therapy has a special way of holding up a mirror and getting you to face yourself and everything that comes with you.
I recognize that in order to take care of my clients, I need to first take care of myself. Sometimes I want to avoid therapy because I don’t feel like examining myself or my emotions. But, I totally look forward to every Tuesday at 3pm because it is the time when someone helps me unpack the various checked baggage of my life. - Dr. B