“So you’ll learn what it’s like to be crazy for an hour,” said the supervisor of one of my colleagues, in reference to a client with psychotic features.
It’s so true. Therapists join in the realities of the person or people they are with for that hour. In a recent conversation with my own supervisor about how I am failing one particular client, she said, “You feel helpless, like he does.” My feelings of failure were a sign of empathy, not actual failure.
We need our therapists to get it, but not be mired in it… whatever “it” is. Last week I told my own therapist, “I want you to be just a little devastated. Not a lot, because my life isn’t your life, but you can’t be zero percent devastated.”
Therapists are the bridge between who we are now and who we will be at the end. The relationship I’m forming with my current therapist is fast becoming the path I walk upon, step by step, to get to the other side. That other side might be a place of hope or sanity, of power, gentleness, kindness. Neither of us know yet. But half of him sits with me in the pain and confusion, and half of him in his own groundedness. He trusts the process of therapy when I no longer can, but he doesn’t trust so much that he abandons me in my confusion and despair.
As therapists, we lose hope and hold hope at the same time. We are simultaneously crazy and sane, confused and grounded, terrified and sure. As clients, we take what steps we can along the bridge, sometimes constructing it with our therapists as we walk along it. Sometimes we ask if there even is another side, as I did last week. And we hear the answer, both frustrating and comforting: “I don’t know. But if there is, we’ll get you there together.”