I typically write my blogs targeting a lot of the issues and themes that arise in therapy work with clients. I have yet to write a blog directed at supporting therapists. When I am not working, people will often ask me if I am diagnosing or analyzing them during a conversation. This in and of itself is one small comment that makes it difficult for therapists to feel it is okay to just be. To not consistently be expected to play the role of “therapist”. I am here to say that therapists are human. As a shoutout to all my therapists, I listed some helpful reminders to help therapists manage their own expectations of themselves. These reminders are because of the difficulties of our job and taking off their therapist hats when they aren’t working.
You are not expected to be perfect
This goes for both in and outside of therapy sessions. Mistakes or misses in sessions are bound to happen once in a while. That is normal. These are good opportunities to be accountable and demonstrate the power of tear and repair with our clients. These moments can be incredibly powerful and actually even be healing when done well. Remind yourself that even though you have a lot of tools for navigating struggles, it does not mean you are expected not to have them. You’re not expected to handle situations perfectly or that you need to do it alone. Everyone has pain and needs extra help and support to navigate their troubles. In fact, in our profession, it is ethical to ensure you get good support so that you can provide effective therapy.
Not only are we human, but our humanness is our biggest superpower of all as a therapist
Our ability to connect with clients and engage in a trusting relationship is key for therapy success. We can provide our clients with incredible skills, but if there is no trust we are unlikely to get the buy-in. I have also found that intentionally demonstrating your humanness through your own emotional responses, appropriate self-disclosure, and active engagement in the therapeutic relationship are often the most powerful, validating, and important moments.
You need to Recuperate from this Role
You are a therapist doing deeply interpersonal work with clients every day of the week. It is important to engage in self-care that rejuvenates you and allows you to do what you need to do in order to feel present and show up for your clients each day. If you do not feel like you are getting your needs met it will be very difficult to be able to do effective work.
Set Healthy Boundaries in Your Relationships
Engage in relationships that do not exploit this role and talent of yours. Of course, you are an empath, or you would not be a therapist, but make sure you are engaging in relationships that don’t consistently require you to be in this role. You are not doing this work for free and if someone in your life seems to need regular “sessions” then it is okay to kindly suggest that they seek their own therapy. It is also important that you have people in your life who can be a sounding board for you.
Create Intentional Transitions Between Work and Outside Life
We do heavy work. It can be very difficult to try and leave work at work, especially when we care so deeply about our clients. I think working virtually from home, has made this even more difficult for many. Whether you go into the office or not, be intentional about creating a transition between work and home. One way of doing this may be getting outside to signal to your mind/body that the day is over and allows you to decompress and shift out of this role.
While we are our authentic selves in the therapy space, we are also in the role of therapist. This role means being present with clients and helping them navigate their issues and concerns. It involves teaching them skills and helping them gain insight into changes they need to make to feel more fulfilled.
Yes, many of us get a lot of joy and fulfillment out of this work. However, it is not a space where our particular needs are being addressed. To be effective in providing these services, you need to take time to prioritize your own support, joy, and well-being, and to give yourself permission to be human.
Article written by Dani Parmacek, LCPC, R-DMT