The Full Mind of a Therapist
I hear some pretty crazy things as a therapist.
Some horrific abuse that people endured.
Some outrageous behavior - sometimes committed by my clients.
Some painful, distorted beliefs about themselves.
It’s not all bad though. In fact, most of the time I find myself enriched by my clients.
Some incredibly insightful points.
Some fresh perspective of looking at stale situations.
Some perfectly poignant words to describe something that is hard to nail down.
Some words of wisdom for an issue they don’t even know I’m working through.
Some new strategies or approaches to common problems.
I’ve come to love meeting with clients virtually, because I can jot the unique things they say down without interrupting and distracting them.
During an in-person session, I don’t want to be the stereotypical therapist that sits there with a notepad taking notes. I want to be engaged and present, not doing anything to take them away from the work they are doing.
But this does mean I lose some of their gems. There is simply too much happening in my brain for me to remember everything. It is far more important that I remember what is relevant for my client, versus what I found uniquely fascinating or insightful for my own life.
Even with the amount that my brain “forgets,” I still find my mind full of thoughts by the end of the day.
I wonder about what it means for a client to be in a family situation they don’t like.
I think about the aspects of autism that are frustrating for the majority of autistics.
I remember that random topic I want to write an essay about.
Being a therapist is invigorating. My exposure to daily, deep conversations means I am constantly inspired and fueled in my writing and creative life.
However, I have to be mindful of two key components: The input and the processing.
By input I mean the amount of information coming in. If I have too many clients in a day, it is just too much incoming information. I am exhausted by the end of the day and don’t have the bandwidth to even process everything I heard. The same applies if I fill my week with too many clients. It usually works best if I just see clients 3-4 days a week. By the 5th day, I am shot.
By processing, I mean how I am dealing with the information I receive. I need time to sit with the thoughts. Some of them (like the painful and traumatic ones) can be especially heavy and I might need to talk with my therapist or consult with someone. Most of the time though, I need to follow through on my inspiration. I want to write essays on the topics I want to explore or explain further. I want to add new ideas and points to the ever-growing lists that I create. I want to research the topics that I realize I need more education on. Essentially, I’m cleaning house in my brain and organizing everything into its place.
Time for processing is just as essential as time with my clients. Yes, “the work” I do and the money I make comes from that 1 hr I’m sitting with a client, but it’s like for every hour I’m with a client, I need 4 hours to myself. If I do not have adequate time to myself for my processing, my mind becomes cluttered. It’s harder for me to be present and my mood drops. I am far grumpier and more frustrated.
I think the need for limited input and expansive processing is twofold: being a therapist is emotionally demanding. I think every therapist struggles with this balance.
Second, I am autistic. My brain naturally fills with far more thoughts than the average person. While I could wail and beat against the bush that this is how my brain is, I know that only drags me down. Instead, I accept that this is how my brain is and I make space for it. I limit the number of clients I see and I clear my schedule for the necessary processing of my full mind.
Thank you for reading. If you’d like to read more, sign up for my FUNletter or check out my book Grief is a Mess.