Imagine the Action: So, I Hear You’re Looking For a Therapist . . .

When I became willing to subject myself to the process, I had to find the appropriate level of care so that I could achieve my goals. Now, by definition, the word therapy means to find a curative process. This can happen in different ways. Therapy can be a task or an exercise regiment. This can be a program of relief or emotional support. Or, this can be a hobby that relieves tension and stress. 

In my case, I needed all of the above. I needed to find a routine. I needed to find a task and exercise that would help me both emotionally and physically. For me, I learned that I needed more. I learned that to be happy, and I mean to be truly happy, it was clear that I could not do this on my own. I knew that I needed help. The trick here is to find the right help.

I am someone who has been in and out of therapy for most of my life. I do not put this down or say this as if this puts me in a mentally poor regard. In fact, I promote therapy.
I promote the need to improve and the need to maintain one’s personal health. It is strange, however, that we live in a world where topics such as therapy are stained by stigmas and judgments. But yes, safe to say that I have been in and out of therapy since my young childhood. 

I am not a believer in any “One-size-fits-all” models or psychological modalities. It has become very clear to me that “To each their own,” which means that not every method of therapy matches the needs of every person. 

Not every doctor is good for every patient. Not every plan matches every need and not every therapist is the right fit for every case. Yet somehow, there is this idea that someone who is educated and holds credentials should be equipped to deal with any patient at any time. 

This is simply not true.

I have been through different therapeutic relationships with different therapists. Some of them were helpful and some were less than beneficial. In fact, some of my experiences were downright tragic. So let’s be clear, the process and decision to begin therapy is a brave step towards personal balance. This is your vehicle towards your best possible self and well-being so be mindful of this.
Also, be mindful that there is a responsibility on both ends between the therapist and the patient. There is a need for trust and comfort; additionally, there’s a need to create a comfortable environment that is safe and judgment free. Otherwise, what’s the point?

There is no room for personal bias here and there are times when I have found that personal bias has crept in the loop. As the patient, this led to shame-based thinking and reservations of judgment, which prevented me from sharing both honestly and openly. Eventually, this ended the therapeutic relationship. 

In the case of therapy, people seek a therapist for help. Not to be judged. Not to be part of a stigma. No one goes to be questioned and pushed to feel worse but more, the helpful roles between therapist and patient are a specially bonded connection. This allows for a clear path for the patient to reach their goals, plans and strategies.

Here’s an example:
I was at a week-long seminar and towards the end, a clinician took over with a presentation that was odd to me. I asked questions; however, my questions were neither honored nor answered. In fact, some of my outside conversation was brought inside to the presentation in a way that would promote shame.
In my field, I am not legally capable of calling anyone a patient. I am a certified professional life coach and certified recovery peer advocate. I am state recognized, which means I have had training as well as standardized testing. I am also a state recognized peer specialist all of which comes with mandatory clinical hours under professional supervision. However, I am not a doctor. I do not treat or diagnose. I am a person of support who assists in goal setting and achievement seeking practices. I do not judge. I do not condemn. Therefore, I do not refer to anyone as a patient. Instead, I refer to them as clients.

First, this gives my clients the dignity of a title that is unblemished by a stigma. Secondly, this title empowers people with an elevated approach and mind you, the same as not every therapist is made for every patient, not every coach is intended for every client. Ah, but I digress. 

After listening to the clinician’s approach and understanding that this person and I were not meant to interact, I heard from someone else in the class who thought similarly.
This person mentioned, “That guy is what’s wrong with therapists today.”
I responded, “Guys like him are the reasons why I never wanted to become a therapist,” to which my classmate responded, “No.”
My classmate told me, “Guys like him are the exact reason why you need to keep doing what you do.”

“The world needs more good guys!”
I agree. 

I go back to the details of finding the right level of professional care. It is apparent but not always clear that in the process of selection, we have to find the right match. Degrees do not always make the right fit. Forget about the school or the amount of diplomas on the wall. Forget about the décor of the office or whether there’s a waiting room that plays elevator music. 

Find the right match.
First, I would like to point out the obvious. This is a paid service, which means it only makes sense to get what you pay for.
Second, whether you consider yourself a patient or a client, either way, you have the right to be treated with respect, dignity and non-judgmentally. 

In a recent session as a patient, I was subject to an opinion that was not therapeutic. In fact, this comment showed judgment, which showed bias. The older version of me would have submitted to this and not spoke up. However, this version of me sees that my time (my money and my business) is too valuable for opinionated dialogue. I have rights as a patient. Therefore, I explained myself very clearly and openly. I was neither assertive nor aggressive but instead, I was honest.

In my case, the therapist noted my accent, which tends to relax when I am comfortable. My accent is typical of New York. At least I think it is.
After hearing some of my background, the therapist explained that I sounded as if I spent time on the street. He mentioned my religious background and said, “Because good Jewish boys don’t talk like dis.”
I spell it like ‘Dis” because my “Th” pronunciation sounds more like a ‘D’ (and by the way, don’t even ask me how it sounds when I say the word, “Bathroom”).
I made a mental note of this and drew a line, which is not therapeutically helpful. Next, the therapist, who is otherwise good and helpful but in need of direction, made a remark about the artwork and tattoos on my skin. 

I offered to stop the session and explain that I have come for therapy. I am not here to listen to judgment or be subject to someone’s bias and that in order to keep this beneficial to me, I advised that comments like this (which showed judgment and cultural bias) would have to stop.

So, why is this important?

The important part is that people are flawed and we are all human. No one walks on water and as for the last person who supposedly walked on water, he didn’t do so well with people’s judgment either. 

Whether this is my process or yours or whether we are building a model, piecing a puzzle together, or creating a strategy to support our mental health, rest assured there will be times when mistakes are made. However, no one can ever honor our boundaries if we do not declare what they are in the first place.

The action here is self-care, self-efficacy and self-advocacy.
This is what helps us to be better.
There are countless paths to personal recovery.
Feel free to choose the one that works best for you.

One of the most delicate parts of transformational growth in the wellness process is shame or shame-based thinking. I’d prefer to deal with encouragement and empowerment because all else leads to judgment of self and rejective thinking. Whether my journey and credentials extend further in the mental health field or if I find myself comfortable where I am, if I am to be the professional I choose to be then my goal is to destroy shame.
The walls of my office might never be as decorated as some and my education might not go as far, but at least I’ll know that education has nothing to do with dignity. And me, I’ll choose dignity over shame any day of the week. Know what I mean?

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