This revelatory, no-punches-pulled book brings to light both sides of the “relationship” between therapist and client—a bond that can feel pure and profound, even if it is, at times, illusory.
Contributors include an array of essayists, authors, TV/film writers and therapists, including Patti Davis, Beverly Donofrio, Royal Young, Molly Peacock, Susan Shapiro, Charlie Rubin, Estelle Erasmus, and Dennis Palumbo.
Full list of contributors:
Pamela Rafalow Grossman
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About the Author
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How Does That Make You Feel?
Confessions from Both Sides of the Couch
By Sherry Amatenstein
Seal PressCopyright © 2016 Sherry Amatenstein
All rights reserved.
I’m Not the Right One For This Job
by Megan Devine
I wanted to be a therapist right up until the day I became one.
My very first day on the job, listening to an addict tell me about her abusive boyfriend, I should have quit. I went to my supervisor in tears, overwhelmed with my client’s pain, with all the problems she brought to the room. My supervisor comforted me: It’s going to be okay. You’re going to be a great therapist.”
What if I don’t want to be? I’m not the right one for this job.”
But I stayed.
He sat on my couch, as he’d done every week for over a year. Licking his lips, which were dry from all the medication he was on. Fidgeting. Eyes shifting from side to side as he listed all the things going wrong in his life.
It was a long list.
He was too scattered to get the house cleaned, but the dirt depressed him. He couldn’t afford to be more depressed. He didn’t know how to talk to his son, but he got so worried about sounding stupid; that made it harder to talk. He rarely left the house most days. All those years of electro-shock therapy, plus the cocaine use it robbed him of the ability to feel, but he knew he felt bad.
There was just so much wrong.
I sat, listening, thinking: man. This poor guy needs a therapist. He really needs help.
It was several seconds before I realized: I am his therapist.
I am his therapist, and it’s my job to help.
I’m not the right one for this job.
The impostor syndrome, sometimes called impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome, is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remains convinced that they are frauds. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be. They don’t believe they are right for the job, and no amount of success can convince them otherwise.”
This is what Google told me. Sitting at my desk after this session with my client, I definitely felt like a fraud. I was nowhere near skilled enough to help this man.
For the millionth time, I questioned my choice of profession:
Dear man on my couch, not only am I not able to help you, I don’t want to help. I don’t want to help you anymore. I’m out of my depth, even five years into this private practice thing. I can’t guide you through this, because not only do I not know how, I don’t want to know how. I no longer want to try.
I’m not an impostor; I’m just not the right one for this job.
But I stayed.
Even knowing what I knew that I did not want to be a therapist - I moved slowly, persecuting myself with questions about my motives, doubting my plans for the future, weighing the fact that I’d still have to pay my student loans against the fact that I hated the profession they paid for.
I might not have ever quit.
And then, one ordinary, fine summer day, I stood on a riverbank while a game warden told me they had found my partner’s body, about 60 yards downstream from where I had last seen him. It took hearing the words, I’m sorry but he’s passed,” for me to say the words, I quit.”
I quit at the riverbank.
I spent three years trying to be anything but a therapist. I worked on farms. I became a cheese-maker. I took informal vows of silence. I wrote, because I couldn’t stop writing. I ignored the people who suggested I turn back to my clinical work, help myself by helping others.
I resisted. I refused.
I quit at the river.
But I didn’t stay quit. I couldn’t stand the thought of all the widows, all the new people in pain, thrown into the wasteland that passed for grief support. I couldn’t let them call out for help and find nothing but vaguely passive-aggressive platitudes. I couldn’t let them bear their pain alone.
After three years in dairy barns, I returned to the counselor’s seat.
I spend my days now inside the intense pain of others. I listen, I counsel, I teach.
I love my work. It’s beautiful and useful and right.
And the truth is, I never feel the way I did that day with that client on the couch all those years ago. I never listen to the stories of the grieving and think, man, they need help. I never feel incompetent, just humbled. I know I am inadequate. I can’t fix this, I can’t fix any of the pain they’re in. I can’t do anything here. I know this. Which is why I’m good at my work.
I am the right person for this job, which is why impostor syndrome” doesn’t fit me anymore. I’m the right person for the job because I question everything. Because I know that nothing helps. Because I know. Because I’ve been on that floor, howling in pain. I’ve been on that floor, dragging myself hand over hand, convincing myself to stay alive, to not kill myself right there, not because I didn’t want to, but because I’d be pissed at myself if I messed it up. Because I wouldn’t want to make a mess someone else would have to clean up. I’ve been in that place.
I’m the right one for this job because I have hated the world and everyone in it while I stood, tears streaming down my face, in love with the world and everyone in it. I know that love is not enough, and that all the beautiful things in the world do not matter. Not one bit do they matter, and they never will, and still, they are everything, and I can’t survive without them.
I am the right one for the job because I know nothing helps. Because I lived it. Because I admit it every day. Because I show up for my clients and say, I am not an expert in this, and I’m here, and I’m with you. I’m here.
Excerpted from How Does That Make You Feel? by Sherry Amatenstein. Copyright © 2016 Sherry Amatenstein. Excerpted by permission of Seal Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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