What’s Your Story? (We All Have One) — On Being a Therapist
Since I have worked in the mental health profession, I can’t even count the number of times strangers have opened up to me about their problems, spewed their life stories in a train station, on a plane, in an uber, and even in the grocery store. I am not exaggerating when I say that there is probably a 50% chance that when someone asks what I do, and I respond, “I’m a therapist,” “addiction counselor,” or “school counselor,” that this person will feel free to talk about his/her own connections and experiences. And, these are not what you would call “light” conversations. These are ones that make you take out the earbuds and put down the tomato sauce. These require attention.
Though I sometimes think about how much more money and serenity I might have if I was able to invoice these people for my time, I know that these extra sessions have given me valuable insight. Weirdly, these moments can be very uplifting. They give me validation in a sometimes thankless profession that not only is there value in what I do, but it continues to give me faith in humanity. I have yet to come across a person who is inherently bad (though to be fair, narcissists and sociopaths aren’t usually the ones knocking down my door to better themselves).
As a therapist, I get the privilege of going deeper into a person’s story than maybe anyone ever has, cutting through the superficial crap. And even though some of these narratives are not easy to hear, over time, it makes me see the world differently. It makes me see myself differently. It makes me understand that most things people do have a reason and motivation, and if I just listen and put the pieces of a person’s story together, I can see that we all mostly make sense.
All in all, I would say that I get as much out of my job as my clients do. I get invited into people’s worlds, into how they think and act and feel. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Although, the next time I am on a cramped flight where my seat won’t go back and there are babies crying, I may just tell the person next to me that I’m an accountant.
Dana Maloney is a disruptive therapist, life coach, and founder of Good Enough Therapist. As a self-described ‘Badass Therapist,’ she is on a mission is to disrupt the traditional model of therapy by making it less sterile, less stigmatized, more affordable and more accessible. She is based in Venice, CA.