Am I saying therapy can actually be fun??
I’ve seen a lot of people in the course of my career and have had so many different types of therapy sessions and so many different types of clients. I’ve worked with kids, adults, groups, families, in their homes, at the health department, all sorts of places, and the thing that I realized that was a common thread was that for the most part, people were so nervous to talk to me.
I get it. You meet with a perfect stranger who says, “Hey, tell me all the stuff that you really don’t want to talk about, I’ll tell you nothing about me, and we’re gonna go from there.” Yeah, that made me nervous too.
So when I started grad school to become a therapist, I was learning all sorts of fantastic stuff (the good stuff!), and “awareness of what impressions I may be giving off” or what I call “What Not To Do.” I was so focused on making sure that I was doing everything right and playing mental twister in my head that I ended up like this:
Ok, so it wasn’t that bad and I didn’t actually say that I was doing my impression of a hot dog, but close enough. So much gratitude to the clients who kept coming back to me in those early years! Jeez.
Somewhere along the way I bought this book about humor and psychotherapy and I have to admit that it is honestly the most boring book I own. No pictures. Nothing funny. So one of the most boring books on my shelf is about using humor in the counseling room. Ironic, huh?
So here are my thoughts now: therapy doesn’t have to suck! And it doesn’t have to be serious all the time! Truly you can have fun int here sometimes. People come to me expecting an emotional root canal, and while, yes, I do that, it isn’t the only thing you have to feel.
Now don’t get me wrong. I take many things very seriously. I am proud of my profession, my ethics, and my job. I think I drove my state crazy with monthly “Are you there, Board? It’s me, Margaret,” phone calls during my licensure process to make sure I was doing everything right. I take client care and “do no harm” to the utmost importance. I am always trying to learn a new skill, and read constantly about new developing things in the field of psychology and counseling.
As a therapist I am here to hold your pain and be the vessel to help you heal and I am capable of the depth of that, but I am also capable of helping you hold the depth of your happiness, too. I don’t think people expect that there can be laughter in a therapy room and that it’s ok.
A client once came to me with the goal to feel again. She was numb to everything. I don’t really know to this day what her expectation was initially, but just as a guess I can imagine that by feeling, she meant that she would be able to process the deep pain and anguish of her past.
And she did. She cried for the first time in probably 7 years. But I think my favorite day was the one when she laughed until she couldn’t breathe over something that I can’t really remember, looked at me astonished, and said, “I can’t remember the last time I laughed like this!”
She was feeling again. She had fun!
But at the end of the day, there is probably much more that I don’t take seriously. First, yours truly. And I’m still looking in that humor book to find the part about the hot dog impressions. Stay tuned for next time...