Why is it so hard to say ‘I’m finding it hard’? Why is admitting to finding something difficult ‘weak’? I wonder what it would be like to feel empowered by knowing and accepting that I find some things hard and that I am still a work in progress.
I was sitting in my supervision session wondering why I only talked about what the clients were finding hard to deal with and not what my difficulties were in the room with them. Are only clients allowed to find things difficult or can therapists also freely admit to it?
I recognise fully that it is a mere illusion that therapists should not find things difficult, both in their professional and private lives. There is however an undeniable expectation (or desire) that the therapist should have their life together – no issues, no problems.
This, however, is far from the truth. I’ll let you into a secret of the profession: therapists and counsellors are actually human, you guys. I have only realised it this year. Unconsciously, I too desired to become a superhuman who cannot be touched by life’s problems by embarking on the journey to becoming an accredited therapist.
And actually, once you start looking at your own stuff and your own experience, and you start becoming more self-aware, things do get better. You can deal with situations better and you can start setting better boundaries. Do not get me wrong, nobody needs a therapist who is completely oblivious to their own little mechanisms.
The reality, however, is of course that therapists find it hard too. They go through rough times. For example, shockingly (not), my therapist confessed to finding the lockdown hard too. The audacity. Of course, I am only joking; she has every right to find the lockdown hard and actually it is a brave thing to show your client that the therapist, too, is in the same shared world of the client and can find something difficult.
Now, this post would not be complete if I didn’t mention self-care, maybe the most important element of a therapist’s training, and unfortunately highly overlooked. The therapist needs, first and foremost, to be authentic with themselves and admit when they are unfit to practice. Pretending that things aren’t hard will not help anyone. First of all, the client might well notice and take it upon themselves to ‘rescue’ the therapist. Second of all, it is not worth it. No job, no matter how fulfilling or societally useful, is worth losing one’s sanity over.
Here’s to finding it hard
So here’s to finding it hard to deal with certain things, to finding some clients difficult, to admitting that we don’t have all the answers and solutions, to saying that we don’t always know what we’re doing.
Can I be more authentic with my supervisor, my clients, my classmates and myself? What would that look like? It is a brave thing to show yourself as you are, especially in a society that favours the ‘superman’ and the ‘superwoman’. Can we swim against this dangerous trend, and create a society where there is space to be vulnerable and say ‘I’m finding it hard’?