We Are Not Superheroes: An insight into what therapists may struggle with but can’t explicitly share with clients.

By Lisa Savage | Aug 9, 2023

Written By Chelsea Glover-Jordan, LCSW-C, LICSW

 

Picture by Canva



Therapists often have altruistic personalities which help them be the most effective in the profession. Some things they are simply born with, they’re inherent. Taking into consideration the possible overlooked “consequences” of being a mental health professional, I cannot stress enough the importance of understanding that your therapist is not superhuman. They don’t go without fault, feeling, or countertransference. What makes them capable is that in addition to all the inherent amazingness they have going on, they’re able to create separation between their lives and what you as a client bestow on them as issues and grievances.


Here are a few things to keep in mind while engaging your very human therapist:


 1.THEY HAVE BAD DAYS:

We know that when life tends to life, there is no set way to manage any given stressor or inconvenience. There are very few ways to predict what may throw us off schedule, what may put us in a tizzy, one that may be difficult to shake in the 15 minutes therapists often allot themselves between sessions. Although they do their best, there are things that happen outside of their control and yet, they still show up to be the “professional” for you, “parent” for their children, “partner” to their significant other, and everything else that qualifies them as multi-faceted individuals. This can at times be a very difficult balancing act. Imagine learning about a substantial life-changing event and having to attune to your client who just “only” suffered through the most minor inconvenience compared to what you’re currently going through. Your therapist may have lost a loved one and yet they’re sitting at their desk for 60 minutes talking to you about the married women you can’t leave alone. Imagine the grit and sense of separation of thoughts and feelings that must take place for a therapist to show up for you while trying to hold space for their own chaos and discord. It is important that even if you as a client have no idea what’s going on with your therapist (oftentimes you will not) that you be kind, patient, and considerate of any shortcomings they may exhibit (especially if it’s on the contrary to what you typically experience with them).

2. DISAGREEMENTS ARE INEVITABLE:

If you enter the therapeutic alliance with the expectation that your therapist will always agree with you, you are mistaken my dear. Outside of the cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) concepts of cognitive distortions, the utilization of “should” and “black and white thinking”, there is very little room for a “yes [wo]man” within the therapeutic alliance. If your therapist is of quality, they will teach you how to acknowledge and reframe these expectations and distortions to help decrease symptoms of anxiety, depression, and dare I say it, delusions. When signing practice policy forms, despite what you may have thought, that’s not a contract for your clinician to adopt your mindset, perspective, and sometimes skewed worldviews. Signing practice documents should make for an effective contract between clinician and client that your therapist will facilitate a safe and the least judgmental space to encourage you to be your most authentic self. Your therapist is simply there to support you in your decisions while also shedding light on ways in which you may be lacking self-awareness, compassion, and real-life understanding of the world around you. I’ve spoken to other clinicians (and with personal experience) about clients who have fired them because the clinician refused to affirm their self-serving, distorted, and in some ways, self-destructive behaviors and mindsets. If you are not ready to do some real shadow work and reflection while sometimes hearing the harsh truth, you will more than likely struggle with what is supposed to be the raw and authentic concepts of therapy.

3.NOT ALWAYS A GOOD FIT:


It is imperative to go with the “right fit” for your therapist. As much as you can, please do your research. Review their website, their personal statements, and client reviews if available. Pick the clinician that resonates most with you, the one whom you can see yourself having the most intimate and most vulnerable conversations about your insecurities, deepest secrets, and ways in which you hope to heal and better understand yourself with. If they are operating from the space of service and at a basic level of first “do no harm”, a potential provider will let you know whether they feel comfortable or not in helping to guide you through your most vulnerable times. You want them to be this self-aware because if they aren’t, it could be to your detriment. This decision will mainly be based on their level of confidence, their sense of competence, and the potential they may feel for any countertransference that may or may not reflect their personal beliefs and values. If a potential clinician advises that they are “not a good fit” don’t take it personally. Simply understand that there is another therapist out there you have yet to find that is a better fit, one who can understand and relate to you on the most professional and authentic level possible.

Contrary to popular belief, your therapist DOES NOT HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS! They are trying to figure out life just like you. Fortunately, they have acquired the education and the expertise it takes to help others while also more than likely healing themselves. Reality check! It’s not a linear process and to hold space for others when they are personally dealing with loss, contemplation, and issues surrounding self-awareness, can truly be a balancing act, one that is valued and if invalidated, could be detrimental to mental health. This is why it’s important that you understand your therapist is human and that they have faults although not apparent to the sun, there can be some internal struggle on their behalf. Please be kind and open-minded to the inevitable intricacies that go into helping you while simultaneously helping themselves.

 

About The Author

 

 

3 Roads, a group private practice owned by clinical social worker and therapist, Chelsea Glover-Jordan based out of Maryland and Washington D.C. Chelsea is dedicated to helping underserved populations, black women in particular. With a niche in maternal health, anxiety, and depression, Chelsea works hard to meet clients where they are. To Chelsea, self-care is super important and that is one thing she encourages with anyone she encounters. She implements mindfulness exercises and interventions such as CBT, DBT, and EMDR to help clients in their therapeutic journeys. She considers herself a spiritual being who is always on a journey to balance all 7 of her chakras. 

 

3 Roads was established because she wanted to make a career out of something she loves doing, helping people. She sees so much beauty in the art of living to one’s full potential and on her journey to enlightened spirituality, she hopes that her narrative and experiences can help others. 

 

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Lisa Savage

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