I’ve always felt frustrated at the weird place therapists have to straddle between connecting at a warm, deeply real, and human level whilst also being ‘professional’. I prefer the term ethical….and I’m not sure that ‘professionalism’ has a place in the therapy room.
Of course, clients need to trust and feel safe that they’re being supported by someone that meets certain standards… but it’s important to define ‘professionalism’ and ensure that it doesn’t mean either the therapist’s ego or the client’s disempowerment entering the space. Isn’t professionalism by its nature unrelatable, distancing, superior, stuffy, – a bit ‘them and us’? It worries me greatly that clients enter therapy already feeling less-than and vulnerable – so I always work hard to be seen as equal; as a human being first and foremost. I work hard to leave my ego at the door.
Of course, I believe it’s important to meet certain standards – in terms of professional training and ethics – but this doesn’t mean that I need to be formal, superior, idealised, or seem like a model of morality. Trust me, I’m not!
How can I form an authentic connection with you if I haven’t lived, made terrible mistakes, or been through hard times? If I don’t have bad habits, swear and speak in the vernacular, feel vulnerable, get things wrong, lose my way, have insecurities, doubt myself, and worry about what others think? I’ve earned my role as a therapist and feel able to support others primarily through tough life lessons, wisdom gained through arduous, bold, self-exploration, and self-criticism. And through the privilege of learning immense lessons from the things clients have shared with me over many years.
I want you to benefit from therapy not through being a consummate professional that knows more than you and elevates myself to a higher standard but instead through recognising we’re all on this crazy ride together! Struggling through life, messing up, feeling inadequate, getting hurt, recovering from past mistakes and disappointments, sometimes not knowing what to do or where to turn, finding it hard to cope, and wishing for more.