Showing posts with label clients. Show all posts
Showing posts with label clients. Show all posts

Saturday, January 29, 2011

TMI

One of my professional supervisors recently referred someone to my practice for couples counseling. A day or so later, my colleague got an angry call from this same person, wanting to know why he gave him my name. Did he actually know who I was?!

Of course, my colleague said. I gave you her name because she's a very good therapist.

I looked her up online. Have you read that newspaper column about the Church? he countered.

Well, yes, and I don't think there was anything in that column about the Church and child sex abuse that wasn't true, my mentor said. After some other choice words, the caller asked for a different referral.

I think that's what we call client "self selecting."
 
One of the risks of writing or speaking in public is that people may actually listen to you. Since most if not all of what I write would be considered persuasive speech, what happens as a matter of course is that some people will agree with me, and some people won't. And in that process, some form strong opinions of me as a therapist, or former pastor, or even as a human being.

And while occasionally it brings with it positive, affirming comments, it's the angry, bitter, divisive opinions that most often get shared with me. Before the internet, my audience was my congregation and those who received the local paper. Now, my published words are stored, copied and accessible for anyone who wants to find them online.

Being someone who likes people, ideas and happy relationships, it's a bit painful to hear that my name is being denigrated for an opinion that is factually true and holds church leaders accountable for their power over children. Am I willing to stand up for what is true, and advocate for change in the Church, for example, even if I get personally attacked? I am. But I will also have to grow a thicker skin, because some people who might have sought me out for therapy will turn elsewhere, convinced I can't serve them because I don't think just like them.

Too Much Information: does my writing give potential clients too much information before they contact me? Should a psychotherapist be perceived, as we once were, as aloof, private blank slates upon whom clients projected their lives for reflection and perspective? With all my words out there, that's not possible for me. I believe that I have been given an important opportunity to write, think and reflect on life in newsprint and online, and I'm not going to waste it.

If people who might become my clients think it's important to vet my ideas for their own version of truth and correctness, so be it. We probably wouldn't be happy together as client and therapist, anyway. I seek the light of God in every person I serve. If a client can't get their focus off of me and onto themselves, we won't get anywhere.

Best they find themselves a therapist they THINK thinks just like them. I guess that's what being online does for me: if someone believes their counselor needs to pass a political or religious litmus test to help them, they can test drive me without ever dialing the phone. And I'll just keep working to help those whose hearts open to include the unique writer, person and therapist I am.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Pastors are a Bridge

When I first began my private mental health practice, I knew one thing was certain: I needed to meet as many area clergy as I could. Today I had the pleasure of having coffee with an another local parish pastor. Thanks, C!

So many people still experience embarrassment, resistance and fear when it comes to seeking therapy for relationships, emotions, or behaviors, they stall when it comes to getting help. They may talk to their friend or family member. They may occasionally tell their physician about how they feel. But as they get ready to reach for help, they may also talk to their pastor.

Most pastors are great at emotional triage. Trained in basic listening skills, taught how to manage themselves in emergencies, experienced at handling emotions at funerals, parish clergy are the go-to folks in many people's lives when it comes to figuring out what to do when the going gets rough. I am honored so many people trusted their lives to me over my years in the parish. I learned early on to have a small group of trusted counselors I knew and to whom I could refer my parishioners who needed more help than I could give. I tried to think of myself as a link between suffering and help, and I kept in touch with those counselors on a regular basis.

Now, I strive to be one of those counselors that the pastors, ministers and priests around me trust. Someone they have met, looked in the eye, and gathered a personal sense of me for themselves. As I reflect on clients who have recovered well, who make the most progress in their personal goals, the ones who feel that therapy was a success: most have come to therapy via their pastors.

Thank you, Pastor, for being on the front lines in people's personal lives. You are under appreciated in our secular culture, and over-worked inside the special world of the congregation. You may not feel it often enough, but you are loved, respected and trusted by your members, and a lot of neighbors and strangers, too. Helping people navigate the details of mental health care is a compassionate gift you give. Thank you for trusting people you care to me, and to other therapists you know and trust. 

Oh, and one more thing: you are often neglectful of your own mental health. Don't forget to reach out for help yourself. Some of us know exactly what your life is like, and can be trusted as a confidential guide to increasing YOUR emotional health.  God's grace surround you!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

This is What I Do it For

After three years of private practice, I'm beginning to anticipate its natural rhythms.

There are some months that I have a steady schedule, and the phone rings with some regularity with requests for information and appointments. These months tend to follow the school calendar and extend into early summer. And then there are weeks that the phone stops ringing, current clients miss appointments and don't return my phone calls, and the calendar starts to have big holes in it. These weeks coincide with major religious and national holidays, and the last weeks before Labor Day.

I now understand why therapists have traditionally taken the whole month of August off. Remember Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss in the 1991 comedy, "What About Bob?" (The busy New York City doctor rents a home in New Hampshire for the whole month of August only to be followed there by his newest, most eager patient, Bob.)

So while I have some unwelcome time on my hands, I have been reading. And I have been seeing some of my long term clients. And this is what I have seen: healing. While I can't give you details, I hope it is enough to tell you that just today, I saw a client who had a difficult mental disorder that was controlling her life a year and a half ago. She told me today that she is really feeling "her normal self," the self she remembers before the disorder took over. I smiled through her session.

The same thing happened last week, as a couple client told me that they had "completely changed" the way they moved in their relationship. Wow. We talked about what they were doing differently, and what they had learned. I remembered what it was like for them when we began. And I smiled, and congratulated them on their hard work.

That kind of healing of emotions, mind, spirit and behavior is what I have experienced in therapy as a client, and what I strive for with each new client who comes to me for help. It doesn't always work, for a wide number of reasons. But when it does, I have to tell you: it's joyful for me. This is what I do it for.