I’m increasingly convinced that beginning therapists should be spending more time learning how to take care of themselves and recover from the work than learning theory and interventions.
Stability and sustainability need to come before depth and mastery.
A simple and easy place to start is that short period of time between sessions.
I used to think this period of time was inconsequential because of how limited it is (often due to my poor time management and boundaries). But that’s exactly why it’s so important. We only have this short amount of time to transition from client to client, and it’s often jarring and chaotic.
I’m trying 3 things to change that:
- Note and breath into the difficult feelings that arose from my last session
- Reconnect with who I am and life outside the therapy room
- Extend loving-kindness to my next client before I see them
A brief word on each:
Noting and breathing into difficult feelings has become a way for me to try and emotionally cleanse before my next session. I simply name what has come up for me (fear, anxiousness, guilt of not being helpful etc.) and breathe warmth, compassion, and understanding into each one.
Sometimes I feel like I lose myself in sessions, as if I’ve been reduced to this one-dimensional helping machine. It feels dehumanizing but it also rachets the pressure way up. To counteract this, I bring to mind the lovely parts of my life and who I am that have nothing to do with helping and the therapy room: my cozy home waiting for me, my goofiness and comfortability with friends, my love for lakes and clouds. Doing this helps bring much needed perspective and eases that pressure.
Lastly, I bring to mind the next client I have on my schedule, the predicaments and burdens they’re carrying, and in my heart and mind I extend loving-kindness their way. Just as I sometimes feel reduced to something one-dimensional, I find at times I do the same with my clients. I reduce them to their presenting problem or treatment goals. But I find extending loving-kindness to them helps me see their full humanity again.
In doing these 3 things, I find the pace and rhythm of each day slowing. I also find myself more present and less resistant within my sessions. I hope they might be helpful to you as well.