Yesterday I read a story about a psychotherapist who had a very difficult client. The client was homeless and didn’t have money to pay, yet the therapist elected to take her on, paying for supervision herself to ensure she could get a professional opinion on how she’s handling the case. The client had a history of abandonment so she was extremely needy, frequently calling the therapist almost every day.
Long story short, despite trials and tribulations which included a suicide attempt in the middle, fifteen years later the client was able to thrive independently. I loved this sentiment:
“It is at times like this that therapists feel the earth move. It’s not when the big revelations tumble out, or even the times when the patient effuses gratitude. The most satisfying moments are these seemingly mundane occasions that make one feel a person’s molecules have been somehow rearranged for the better. I felt that all the time, patience, skill, compassion, and money I had put toward the healing of Emily had reached her, and not only reached her but settled into a kind of emotional bedrock.” – Deborah Luepnitz, Schopenhauer’s Porcupines
Fifteen years! What does it mean to spend fifteen years with a person not on a personal level but on a strange professional yet intimate level? What does it mean to patiently trust in someone’s lifelong’s process of becoming? One can never know where it’ll go when the process takes so long, so it takes a giant leap of faith and dogged persistance for both the therapist and the client. It is really not easy for either party to keep showing up. For fifteen years!
The idea of becoming a therapist has popped up in my mind repeatedly recently. It will be a long and expensive journey, and I am not sure how committed I am to it yet. But I’ve found the process of holding space and being a mirror for my friends particularly meaningful, especially if I was able to reflect a little bit of their own light back to them. I was aware of this a few years ago, but it never occurred to me that I would want to do this professionally.
But each time I read stories on psychotherapy I am moved profoundly, each time my therapist holds space for me I can feel the edges of my existence. How therapeutic and life-changing it is to have someone see and take us seriously, and what would it mean to be able to give this gift to people who really need it? What would it mean to be part of the process of someone forming their emotional bedrock?
I think it is one of the greatest gift in life to be able to gift someone a full and accurate reflection of themselves and their potentialities, to honour them seriously as a human being, to believe in their capacity to thrive. And perhaps it means even more to show up for them when everyone else has failed to do so, to give them a safe space to hurt and to truly be with them while they grow and heal.
In one of my earlier sessions with my therapist, I told her that it saddens me that therapy exists as a profession, that we have to pay for someone to take our emotions seriously, that the people who really need therapy will never be able to afford it. I was moved to tears when the therapist above initiated an effort to provide therapy for the homeless.
I would like to work with disadvantaged communities if I ever pursue psychotherapy as a path. I think how we navigate life is based on how we see ourselves and by extension, how we relate to others. I have spent most of my life walking in circles because I was unable to see myself. It is arguable if I even had a self. Who knows how our lives may unfold if there are people who are deeply invested in our becoming as our selves (and not treat us like a statistic/case number/retirement funding source/trophy/extension of themselves)? If, if I can become a person who is resilient enough to be there with someone while they take their time to become – looking at where I am now I think I have a long, difficult way to go – I think it would be an extremely meaningful way to spend the rest of my life.
The thought of sticking with a someone for more than a decade sounds unthinkable and claustrophobic to me (yes I have commitment issues), but who knows?