20 Years of Being a Therapist: A Labor of Love

No Vision, No Plan

In July 1997, I was half way through my 1st year practicing psychotherapy. I selected an internship site that required a 20 hour a week 12 month commitment.

At the time, I literally had no vision or thoughts about what my future would be in the field. I simply set out to learn everything I could from the talented, authentic, thoughtful multidisciplinary time around me. Today I am honored to still be in contact with at least 10 to 15 of the clinicians I met during that time.

One of them was a fellow intern, a student in the doctoral program. We took to one another immediately. Even though we grew up worlds apart, we had and continue to have so much in common. Today we remain the closest of friends and trusted colleagues.

I didn’t know then how valuable those relationships would be for the duration of my career. Today I encourage new clinicians to attend to their professional relationships and to have friends who are therapists. We need one another.

An Honor to be a Therapist

I’ve worked in many settings over these 20 years in a variety of roles. The one I am most honored by is that of therapist. Even though I stopped taking new therapy cases about 6 years ago in an effort to create space for what my career morphed into, I don’t think I will ever completely stop practicing therapy.

I love my clients.

  • They are brave.
  • They are courageous.
  • They work hard.
  • They are transparent.
  • They are inspiring.

I admire people who are willing to sit down and do the work that is psychotherapy.  I have the utmost respect for them. They have given me the greatest honor of letting me into their worlds. It is in this process of sitting with them that I continue to know that there is so much good in the world.

Outside of therapy, many amazing people are hidden in plain sight, not being seen or known by one another. I’ve recently decided to be more transparent in my professional life — to share more of my whole self. I don’t mean by oversharing in therapy.

Message for New Therapists and Contemporaries

I’m thinking about all the new and budding therapists and also those colleagues who have been in the trenches for years. I’ve noticed a trend among new therapists who put tremendous pressure on themselves very early in their careers. Their visions for their careers are almost too specific. As a result, any and every unexpected or undesirable event hinders their connection to their chosen profession.

I’m thinking about the aspiring; the new and the longtime clinicians (and especially those who are entrepreneurs) and the struggles they experienced along the way.

I’m thinking about all the false narratives we have about one another, based on the idea that we must be perfect and “all knowing” and mistake free to do this work and to have an impact.

There is this idea that we must “put in our dues,” and work in settings where we are underpaid and even worse – undervalued. I want them to know that they are not alone. All around us there are peers with whom to connect and who either have been or are going through many of the same things.

  • There is someone who wanted to give up and go into a different field and do something else.
  • Someone who ran up their credit cards to invest in their business, expecting to turn a profit quickly.
  • People who spent thousands on programs that promise to unlock the keys to private practice.
  • Those who are awake early or up late writing case notes, billing insurance, invoicing and so on.
  • There are many burdened with student loan debt; some still desiring another advanced degree.
  • Therapists whose work triggers their own trauma and flashbacks of their own broken relationships.
  • All around there are therapists committed to doing their own personal development… their own excavation of the soul, so that they can create and continue to form safe spaces for others.

#TherapistsRock

I often say it on social media, but it is worth saying here. I absolutely love my tribe of counselors and psychotherapists of every discipline. I see you. I feel you. I believe in you.

No matter how it appears, no one’s work or life is free from challenges. For example, I struggle with time management. I struggle with the discipline it takes to attend to everything that matters. Every day I work to improve my limit setting and to alter habits that don’t serve me. I also struggle with being overwhelmed by “to do’s.”

Nowadays, I pick myself up. I speak about stress more. I place a priority on what I need to do to keep my own train on the track. As I attend to the needs of my mother, I also support and insist that my supervisees and consultees attend to the needs of their families.

I do not over idealize anyone and I suggest that you don’t either. It is vital that we all be ourselves… that people become “themselves as therapists and/or entrepreneurs.” I did not set out to build what I have created over time. I allowed myself to evolve.

An important part of career satisfaction is a total willingness to abandon what you thought you would do and embrace being in the moment. Most of all be on your journey… no one else’s!

Copyright © 2017 Ruby Blow. All rights reserved.


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