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How Does It Feel To Be A Therapist

George Rosenfeld is a retired Clinical Psychologist who surprised his family and married well despite himself.  He is the author of Beyond Evidence-Based Psychotherapy: Fostering the Eight Sources of Change in Child and Adolescent Treatment. 

I feel challenged and excited every time I meet a new client and these feelings often persist throughout treatment.

Sometimes I feel like I am an omniscient, omnipotent Guru with powers to understand and help the clients trust and engage in therapy. My words are like pearls to be treasured. My observations and interventions are surgically precise.

At times I am a grand manipulator pretending to myself and each client that I understand, can help, agree with them, believe them and really care. I hide being confused, uncertain about their diagnosis and treatment plan, not knowing the research on their disorder, how much they will have to work and sacrifice to change, and my negative feelings and doubts about them and their potential to change.

I deceive them in the service of building trust and engagement and facilitating their idealizing me so they can operate at a productive level of anxiety and they will be more able to believe, comply, incorporate my approval and suggestions, and tolerate the frustrations our work will generate.

I deceive myself to survive the ordeal. The job requires that I bind my worries about competently being able to inspire, figure out what will be helpful and be likable and trustworthy.

At times I feel like the Empath that healed Capt. Kirk on Star Trek by absorbing his pain at great personal sacrifice to herself.

Sometimes I try to feel like I did when I was a theatrical lighting designer. I worked tirelessly for months to produce seamless effects; and my greatest compliment was when I asked people what they thought of the lighting and they responded, "I didn't notice it." I hope clients leave thinking, "I'm not sure exactly what the therapist contributed. I changed pretty much on my own."

Sometimes I feel like the protagonist in Camus' The Plague who competently observed, documented and witnessed what was happening with little power to effect or explain the situation.

Sometimes I feel like the frog in Frogger who hops from place to place avoiding danger.

Sometimes my goal is to avoid getting in the way of the client's efforts to understand and change.

Sometimes I'm a cheerleader.

Sometimes my goal is to avoid getting in the way of the client's efforts to understand and change.

Sometimes I'm a cheerleader.

Sometimes I'm a babysitter who entertains, cares, supervises, and wants to return the children safely and get paid.

Sometimes I feel like a policeman who must stay attentive through periods of boredom punctuated with moments of terror.

Sometimes I'm a salesman hawking my wares to disinterested shoppers.

Sometimes I'm the audience watching.

Sometimes I'm waiting for a date that doesn't show up.

Sometimes I'm a repairman who has to tell the person who has been waiting all day for me to arrive that I can't fix it, or we can try to fix it if we work together.

Sometimes I'm a traveler visiting strange worlds.

Sometimes I'm a gourmet chef creating new recipes and sometimes a short-order cook providing the usual fare under great time pressure.

Sometimes I'm a gardener watering what I want to grow, weeding and planting seeds.

Sometimes I'm the guardrail along the highway seeing the cars control themselves, but being there in case of emergency to limit damage when they are totally off course.

Above all I feel honored to have the privilege of being trusted by so many clients and to have the opportunity to help them improve their lives.

~ George Rosenfeld




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