Written by Brianne Blevins, LMFT-S, LPC-S
I love being a therapist. LOVE it. Never is life so enriching as to sit with someone in their hardest moments and help through the healing. My clients are forever teaching me about life, love, growth and survival. Through the years, my biggest coping mechanism has been to recognize my “therapist” feelings, then really name my “human” ones. Sometimes it’s awesome and light. For example, a client recently was processing newly moving in with her partner and navigating their negotiations in how to set up their home. “There really isn’t a right or wrong way to put the toilet paper on the roll,” she jokes as we further explored the strengths in her relationship. “Yeah there is, but go on” replied my human inside voice. Or the time when a client lamented about fearing an addiction to water and my human self -diagnosed him clearly as an aquaholic.
Other days, it’s not so easy. Every time I know a CPS call must be made, my stomach feels sick. Even when legally and ethically there is no question, it still stinks and I straight up want to vomit. The therapist part knows that it isn’t our job to investigate, only to report neglect or abuse as mandated by state licensing boards and family codes. Yet, the human part knows how hard it is, at times, to tell the family that you must break confidentiality and that protective services may be calling with questions. Your relationship changes and so can the level of trust. My hands have trembled making those calls and many times I have cried after sessions.
Joy and frustration are two other recurring human feelings that often buzz in my heart during treatment. The moments when clients get what’s been said for weeks, or even better saying it themselves amidst their own epiphanies feel electric making my innards scream praises of hallelujah. Just as that same electricity makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up when a teen admits to trying to get pregnant so her dad will pay attention to her. Cue cry/wailing emojis in my heart. And then there are the days of near burn-out when a client casually mentions an affair at a doorknob confession. “Ok, that’s very important and we can pick up there next time,” quips my therapist voice. “Oh man, somebody should really do something about that,” says the human response.
Bottom line: it’s easy for therapists to stay in that understanding the brain of why humans remain stuck and we don’t want to judge our clients. After years of theory in therapy school, we are well trained in how trauma and attachment affect human behavior. However, I say take off that hat momentarily and get frustrated and angry at the client who keeps making the same circular choices. Do a happy woot for the client who set her first boundary ever. Feel all the feels without judgment, because sometimes the clients can’t. Know why a part of you is emoting about their decision and connect with it, but know how to reel it back in, too. Reprocess and identifying any countertransference. Offer it back in a loving and humorous was as needed. Denying those human parts, in reality, disconnects the therapist from treatment and how others experience the client. It’s our humanness along with the objectivity that clients want. After all, the therapeutic relationship is about connection–which is nothing without honesty.
Brianne Blevins is a senior therapist and Clinical Coordinator at The Center for Relationships. She has worked with at risk adolescent girls for over 15 years and currently works with families dealing with incarceration as well as inmates. Additionally, Brianne sees private clients and supervises new counselors and therapists coming into the field. If you would like to schedule a meeting with Brianne, please call 512-465-2926.