The Secret Life of a Family Therapist

Therapists are the keepers of secrets.

Within the process of therapy, clients often share knowledge that is very private and personal. They share their fears and anxieties, topics that are sometimes very hard to share openly with other people in our lives. The therapy room can be a safe place where people can take off the masks that they wear or to share thoughts and memories long kept hidden. A place where secrets can be shared and processed while still being kept safe.

Even before I began seeing clients, the significance of the secrets that people share in therapy was something that I was made keenly aware of throughout my education and training. Confidentiality is often a central theme in any therapy course, reinforcing the importance of protecting the private information shared with us by our clients. In addition there’s the importance of acknowledging the trust that clients are placing in us in sharing their stories as well as their courage in telling it. Even with all the checks and balances, sharing a story that has long been kept hidden can still be a significant challenge and as a therapist it’s always important to be reminded of this.

As therapists, not only are we responsible for honoring the secrets shared with us by our clients but in addition, we have the responsibility of guarding the secret of participating in therapy itself. The decision to attend therapy is often seen as very significant and often it’s a very private decision. In addition, there can be social stigma associated with attending therapy and sometimes the well meaning concern and curiosity of others in our lives can make it harder for clients to protect the content of their therapy work when their attendance is publicly known. This, I’ve discovered, is even more important in couple and family therapy work when different components of a family system can be involved in therapy at different times. Creating a safe and open space for dialogue is a central component of any therapy work and ensuring that clients are confident in the privacy of their work with you is of key importance to any therapist. Continue reading

Lighten up

Oh man, a beautiful sunny day? Well, it’s about time. I am sooo ready for nine o’clock sunsets and bar-b-ques and bikinis, like it’s nobody’s business. Alright, I’m awake nice and early, ready for a sun-filled day of… of… hm. I didn’t really plan anything, I was kind of just looking forward to the sun. I know, I have a book I’ve been waiting to read about couples’ therapy. I’m going to set up a chair in my yard and soak up the sun. Actually, I was kind of hoping to interact with people… I can sit around any day and read but how often do we get gorgeous days like this? Not often enough, let me tell you.

Okay, so I’m going to head downtown and walk around until I come to a bench that looks comfortable and sit and read. That way, I’m out and about (or as we say on the east coast: oot and a boot) and I’ll be enriching my already bursting sphere of knowledge about one of my favourite subjects. Let’s just turn on the tv and check the weather…

No. Way. There’s an all day movie marathon of one of my favourite saga’s of all time! How often does that happen? Not often enough, let me tell you. I’ve got nothing to do today, I can easily sit down and completely enjoy my day in front of the tv. Continue reading

Experiencing Hope and Resilience as a New Therapist

When I’ve talked to people about my decision to enter into the family therapy profession, I often get a comment that goes something like this:

“It’s got to be depressing sometimes listening to people’s problems all day.”

As I began my Master’s program last year, and anticipated the therapy work that I would begin as part of my practicum, this was one of the many sources of anxiety that I felt myself. Would I be able to protect myself and remain positive when working with people faced with all kinds of difficult challenges. People rarely come to see a therapist when they’re feeling happy and everything’s OK. Some days reading the news can be depressing enough, would I be able to handle spending hours each day talking with clients too?

Continue reading

Bathtub Therapy

Aside

My first contribution to this blog last year talked briefly about some of the reactions that I received from family and friends when they heard I was going into the family therapy profession. My grandpa, a wonderful man with an ever-present sense of humor responded by sharing with me a psychology themed joke which had been sent to him by a friend. I keep it at my desk and it always brings a smile to my face so i thought I’d share it here for your enjoyment:

During a visit to a mental asylum, a visitor asked the Director what the criterion was that defined whether or not a patient should be institutionalized.

The Director Replied, “We fill up a bathtub and offer a teaspoon, a teacup and a bucket to the patient and then ask them to empty the bathtub”

“Oh, I understand,” said the visitor. “A normal person would use the bucket because it’s bigger than the spoon or the teacup”

“No,” said the Director, “A normal person would pull the plug. Do you want to be by the wall or near the window?”

Free Flowing

I.

am.

Bummed.

I feel so alone. The last time I kissed anyone was so¬†long ago, I forget what they’re lips felt like… and I’ve forgotten how to kiss. Ok, maybe not forgotten but, wow, I can’t believe how I feel when I’m not holding hands with someone or sharing my day with someone, or making dinner for someone. Yeah, I think it’s safe to say that I really enjoy doing things for my (now non-existent) girlfriend.

I had a girlfriend over 4 years ago. We saw each other almost everyday and I remember at the beginning not wanting to spend too much time on the phone with her because I didn’t like to talk on the phone. But over time, we ended up talking hours over it. I love the way a relationship progresses – how you don’t know a person at the beginning and slowly find out more and more about them. I wanted to accept my girlfriend 100% and never wanted her to feel judged or alone. When I first met her, she seemed rather mean to people, so I started to call her “my mean girl” and, I like to think, by giving her the space to be herself, she began to soften up. It was great, I was such a supportive boyfriend.

And now I’m typing about it… and now I’m getting choked up about it. Continue reading