I have to force myself to remember to engage in the expected pleasentries of hello, how are you, how has your day been so far? This is because by the time my client has shown up to my office I've already been thinking about him/her - how about I just say "you" instead of the politically correct pronouns.
I've been thinking about you.
I get up in the morning, take my shower, drink my coffee, drop my children off to their respective places, and drive into work. I listen to the radio while I drive in, but that's mostly background noise. I think about the people I get to see today. Their stories come back to me and I start wondering how they've been this week based on how they left my office the previous week.
By the time you arrive, I've already started our conversation hours ago, and I'm ready to jump right in. But quite often, I'll catch myself, and I'll say the hello first...
I think existing clients become accustomed to my genuine interest in hearing about their experiences and my deeper digging, "so then how did that make you feel about yourself afterwards?" But newer clients always have longer pauses and their expressions a little more awkward, as if to say, "hold the reigns there cowgirl, we've just met!"
Here's the thing I think new clients need to know - therapists love this stuff!
Licensed therapists have either a master's or doctorate degree in psychology or social work. They invested 6-10 years of schooling and then 2-10 years of internship before taking rigorous exams to obtain their license. They incurred enormous debt as a financial investment. All-the-while knowing that this is not a highly lucrative field. This is because they see the best in the world and they want to help fix people's hearts and their relationships. They went though all that time because they want to spend their lives increasing the joy in this world and mitigating the sorrow. They are the types of people who look at someone's pain and want to stand next to them, helping them to get through it.
So think of it this way, if you over-disclose in "real life" it might be a problem and there might be judgement. You should and do need to go slowly with friendships, disclosing as you build trust. New relationships are a time where you're both showing the other person how trustworthy, judgemental, forgiving, open-minded, etc you each are. You're finding the balance of disclosure - how much is too much vs how much is just right.
In therapy, we are unique individuals who already had a knack for digging deep, wanting to understand, and with big ol' hearts for helping others.
I had a person once tell me, "You're going to see inside my soul!"
Wow! That's deep! That's heavy.
And I think the scary thing for that person isn't that I'll see in their soul, but that I'll peer in there and see their brokenness, see what's wrong with them, decide they're irredemable, and reject or judge them. That would certainly be a heavy secret to keep.
But let me reassure you, when I'm digging deep I'm looking for the places that shine - for what's beautiful. I'm looking for the broken pieces and seeing if I can find every last shard so I can help you put it back together. It might not look like it did before it broke (your heart or you), but it will be a new masterpiece.
People have these wounds they carry around for fear others will see their pain and exacerbate it with negativity, so they hold onto it tight. Then I come around with my cheerful demeanor and ask to take a look. I don't believe I'll see the things you fear down there. I won't see monsters. I'll see what happened during your foundational experiences that hurt you, and the behaviors you've been engaging in as a way to protect you from those original things. I'm looking for ways to help you save yourself.
So the next time you're in therapy and whomever your therapist might be asks you a question that you think will turn them off from you forever, dig deep and answer it anyway. It might give them the exact road map they need to help you find your new masterpiece and put together the pain so it's not something you need to carry with you any longer.
Jessica Wilkerson, LMFT 104464
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Jessica lives and works in Chico California where she helps teens, adults, and couples battle through trauma and relationships to find a more joy filled, balanced, and healthier life. You can reach out to her for an appointment by phone/text at (530) 994-5114 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org