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(This is not me or any of my friends, but if we died our hair brown and permed it, it could be)

Therapists drive me nuts.

Okay, I know that may sound strange coming from one.  But seriously.  I live in Boulder, Colorado where 1 out of 4 people is a therapist.  I have my "normal friends" and then I have my "therapist friends".

The normal friends are well, normal.  Screwed up like everyone else but not all analytical and microscopic about it.  My therapist friends don't know how to leave the office at 5:00.

Occasionally, we (the therapist friends) get together for dinner.  I go into observation mode.  These women all talk about their practices and their clients.  I don't get it.  Why?  Why are they talking about their clients?  Why aren't they just relaxing and unwinding and talking about important things like Botox and shoes?  Why are they acting like their clients are any different than them?

I know them.  That one over there...her marriage sucks.  Seriously, she should have ended it years ago.  The one over there, the one who is way too skinny but works with eating disordered teenagers, she needs to purchase a mirror and fast.  The one in red, she is one angry lady I can tell you that much.  She needs some medication.

Sometimes I walk away from those dinners questioning myself.   Why don't I talk about my clients?   Why don't I compete with these other therapists and tell them about my practice and how successful I am with the most challenging of clients?

One time I invited one of my therapist friends to dinner with my normal friends.  This was a big mistake.  One of my normal friends was complaining about her husband...the kind of complaining women do that is therapeutic.  The complaining where all the other women, myself included, nod our heads and say things like "What an ass" or "you poor thing".

My therapist friend went into therapy mode.  She interrupted my friend (who has a kick ass marriage by the way) and said, "You know, AS A THERAPIST, I just gotta say that I think your husband must feel misunderstood by you, not heard by you, you might want to try, blah blah blah."

My venting girlfriend stopped in her tracks, stopped her words and drank her wine.  There was an awkward silence.

I sat there embarrassed I had asked this therapist friend to come.  My other friends sat there glaring at me.  I had brought an unwelcome intruder to the party and she was ruining all of our rantings and ravings.  What are girlfriends for if you don't feel free to complain about your spouse and kids?  No one comes to dinner to be psychoanalyzed.

For a moment, when my therapist friend was throwing out her professional credits like medicine to a reluctant child, I questioned myself.  Why don't I do that?  Why don't I challenge my normal friends and try to get them to see that they are screwed up and doing it all wrong?  Am I a wimp?  Am I not professional enough?  Am I not wise enough?

Nah.

Self-examination is a tricky thing.  As a therapist, my main rule is that I better walk my talk.  I better be congruent and I better not suggest something to my client that I'm not doing, practicing or willing to do myself.

This makes for a constant lesson in humility.  As soon as I get something down, some other inconsistency jumps up in my face with a big smile and a wave.  

Some people compare self-examination to peeling an onion.  They want to look at each layer, removing the layer and then examining the one underneath.  They stop short of the analogy.  It's fine to take a look, an honest look at oneself.  It's fine to try to understand what motivates us to do the things we do.  It's admirable to try to change destructive and negative patterns so we can become better people.

But peeling an onion inevitably leads you to nothing; there is no core to an onion.  Sometimes self-examination is self-indulgent.  Self-help becomes an obsession, an addiction, self-absorption.

The wise therapist does well to not take him or herself too seriously.  The wise therapist does well to remember the Jeopardy satire on Saturday Night Live where "Therapist" was one of the categories and the Sean Connery character casually says,  "I'll take THE RAPIST for $100 Alex".



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Member Comments

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Coachmombabe wrote Apr 4, 2009
    • I’m not a therapist, but a life coach, and can still relate to your blog. Very well done, by the way! Thanks for the humbling reminder!estatic



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Jenz ~ wrote Apr 4, 2009
    • omg.
      ugh.
      ew.

      You know, my ex was cheating on me with this chick that claimed to be majoring in psych. LMFAO! She used to send him emails all the time that said stupid psyche shit like, “As a psychology major, Jennifer (me) doesn’t understand the significance of the importance of your relationship.” PSYCHOBABBLE 101.
      Can you say OBNOXIOUS?
      Needless to say, ‘Miss Closet’ didn’t walk her talk & has settled for the narcissistic/alcoholic/cheater/ex of mine. SOOO my point is, therapists or students attempting to portray therapists or shove their ‘profession’ down someone else’s throat for whatever benefit they get out of it, someone should enlighten them re: just how obnoxious that is.
      I’m willing to bet many of them should seek a different line of work fast. AND pray for their clients if they don’t. lol



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Jenz ~ wrote Apr 4, 2009
    • Here’s another one for ya.
      This chick that claimed to be becoming a therapist etc- marries a gay guy, says it’s a phase, meanwhile seeing my ex & sending messages to my laptop back then saying to the alky/cheating guy/ex “There’s not a thing wrong with you honey. It’s just who you are. I would just tell you that you‘re unconventional.”
      What would you say about a therapist like that if u knew that & they were trying to advise you about your life? lol



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Jenz ~ wrote Apr 5, 2009
    • lol  Guess this conversation ended. lol...



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Cynthia Schmidt wrote Apr 6, 2009
    • I had a good friend and neighbor who was a therapist. We used to walk in the park across the street together. She told me one day she liked our time together; I didn’t ask her for any free advice and I just smiled when she decided to vent. I would imagine that getting together with other mental health professionals  would be hard - it’s tempting to talk shop. It’s inapropriate to talk publicly about clients and I commend you for not doing it.

      My friend told me one day that working as a therapist, sometimes by the end of the day she feels like she has a lot of “stuff” stuck to her, like goo. Our walks together helped her to sluff that stuff off her skin.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Maria Murphy wrote Apr 16, 2009
    • I love this one!

      We therapists have to remember to laugh at ourselves once in a while.

      Great article.

      Maria



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