Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Suck a little less each day...
I went to a training where the therapist said his goal was not perfection but "to suck a little less each day".
That has become my motto of late.
Some days I feel so out of my league, so lacking in skills, so helpless. I see people who have experienced so much trauma, so much pain, grief, fear, shame and loss that I don't see how they are standing.
Some days I feel that all I accomplish is just listening and passing them tissues.
Some days I provide them with handouts about how to cope. I coach them in deep breathing and other stress reduction techniques and give them tips on what worked for me and others.
But some days I feel like I fail them. Some days I feel like I haven't a clue on what I am doing, if it helps, if it even matters...
Today I saw a young man who was a kid 10 years ago when I worked with his older siblings. He was severely abused as a child. He was removed from his dysfunctional biological family and adopted with all his siblings. But too much had happened to them all by the time I met them. He grew up in a house of chaos. His older siblings are now very troubled adults. His mother brought him in hoping I could help. I had mixed feelings. I felt that if I could not save his siblings, what could I possibly do to help him? But we talked, we made a plan and I said yes to working with him.
His session was bookended by 2 other patients. One was a woman my age who had grown up a county over from where I grew up. She had grown up abused and misused. She developed a drug addiction, was arrested and spent time in jail. She is now on probation with a felony charge. We talked about her anxiety and depression. We talked about her goals. She smiled often her face lit up by hope. I gave my standard speech about how if I am not the right therapist for her, I don't take it personally and will help her find the right one. "Oh no, you are the one" she said and she hugged me on the way out the door.
The last appointment was again a woman near my age. I had seen her for an initial session a month ago, for anxiety and depression. She had a long commute to work. She found that she got angry and anxious coming and going to her job. We talked about ways to relax. We practiced deep breathing and I gave her a stack of my "psychoeducational handouts" that are part and parcel of how I practice.
I always wonder if people ever read them, if they are helpful and if I should even bother giving them out.
Today she told me she had read them all and was practicing some of the skills in the handouts. She told me that was the most useful thing any therapist had ever given her. She talked to me about how at ease she felt with me. She said she felt she was in a really good space.
So I asked: Did she need therapy to continue? And if so how frequently? Which led to the discussion of termination. She told me she felt like she could be fine but could she call if she needed to come back?
"Absolutely!" I said.
"Well then" she said, "I think I can make it through the rest of the year knowing that the door is always open here." And then she hugged me.
As for today, I do feel like a sucked a little less...