My dad used to do this thing: he’d arrive at my house unannounced, and let himself in.
So if I was with a client, my ears would swivel around like a gazelles (ok, slight exaggeration!) and my mind would be alert wondering who had just let themselves into the house (a burglar? Murderer?), and would they come and disturb us.
I’d be distracted from my client, which would make me cross, and that too would distract me.
So I had a word with my dad. 'Please don’t just turn up unannounced, I’m working and that disturbs us'.
Okay, he said.
But he didn’t stop.
What he did was try to ‘be quiet’, which if you've ever tried to creep down a hall quietly, you'll know is considerably louder than just walking normally.
I had another word: PLEASE DON’T just turn up unannounced!
‘But I’m being quiet’, he'd say, clearly not knowing what all the fuss was about, and clearly not happy with me and my unreasonable demands.
So I’d have a moan to friends about this behaviour, who would nod and make the right noises whilst having that look on their face that said ‘wind your neck in Jane, does it really matter?’
I didn’t feel understood, I felt like I was the one being unreasonable, even though I knew I wasn’t.
This is important, because people not really knowing what we do and why we do it has an impact on us. I put it down to people thinking we just sit and have a chat, smile and nod, offer tea and sympathy.
And it’s small things like this that can make us feel isolated, misunderstood and undervalued.
We get very mixed messages as therapists
On the one hand, we’re told that counselling is important, life changing, transformational and even saves lives.
On the other, we’re told there’s no money so we can’t be paid (God forbid we get paid to do this much needed vital work), and our many, varied and hard worked for qualifications aren’t enough, so we are expected to jump through tiny hoops that are lit on fire.
And if we go into private practice, there’s a whole new skill set needed and that can feel like a minefield. (Although it doesn’t have to be, check out the Grow Your Private Practice Club).
And if we get a client and they cancel, we can end up out of pocket, and charging for a missed session can send us into a tailspin.
This is just one reason why self care for therapists is vital.
Not something that's nice to do, not an ‘if I’ve got time after seeing to everyone else's’ needs’ thing, and not a weekly mani/pedi, nice though that is.
Robust self care is vital.
Read more about therapists self care.
Because research has shown that psychotherapists are more prone to becoming depressed, substance abusing, or suicidal than any other comparable profession, such as doctors, lawyers, accountants, and dentists.
That’s serious stuff.
Sometimes others don’t understand what we do, and sometimes, organisations and charities take advantage of our generous nature, and sometimes we find it hard to stand up to this. (If you want to do more to make a change, join the Counsellors Together Facebook page)
That can make us feel unvalued and helpless.
So we have to value ourselves and value what we do.
We have to celebrate our wins, even when we can’t share them because of confidentially.
And we have to allow ourselves to take credit for our part in clients feeling better, despite the knee jerk reaction of ‘no really, YOU did all the hard work!’.
It helps being around peers, so check out what therapist networking groups there are local to you, or join the Facebook group, or the Grow Your Private Practice Club.
Let's connect, and value each other.
What do you do to value yourself? What self care do you practice?