I originally posted this about two years ago. I wanted to revisit it as I have started a college course training to be a counsellor and the subject is of even more interest to me now. I am making a few additions which will be bracketed and in italics, (because who doesn’t like italics?) based on new knowledge and a change in circumstances. Anything in brackets that is not in italics is from the first post and due to my love of brackets. As always, I would love to hear your thoughts.
What do people think about therapists? I am not one. (Not yet anyway). A therapist that is. I am most certainly a people. I ask the question because I am curious for several reasons. One reason is that I am engaged to a therapist. (I am actually now married to her and she has achieved her Doctorate). The aforementioned therapist mentioned to me the other day that when people ask her what it is that she does for a living and she replies that she is a therapist, they take a step back. I mean a literal and physical step back. No metaphors here.
As soon as she told me this, I wanted to see it in action. Luckily I had the chance the following evening. As we were sat having cocktails (I know! How swanky are we?) the bartender asked us what we did for a living. Now, this question kinda sucks for me. I have to explain that I am trying to make a go of it as a writer and hope to one day make money from it. This is either preceded or followed by Gauri saying she is a therapist, which is a hard act to open for or close after. I have made my life somewhat easier in this respect by coming up with a way of saying what I do that doesn’t make me feel pretentious or pathetic. I now say ‘I am a non-profit writer.’ (This is slightly less sucky for me now. I still have not got my book published, but I had one of the nicest rejection letters ever and I can say that I am in training to be a counsellor. The wife can still blow me out of the water with the Dr thing, but I am at least playing catch up).
As Gauri was about to tell the bartender that she was a therapist, I entered hawk mode and watched him closely; very closely indeed. As sure as sunshine comes out after I come home after getting rained on, he did indeed move backwards. I don’t think he was even aware of doing it. Given the topic I am discussing, it makes sense that he did it subconsciously. He even laughed and said ‘A therapist eh? Are you going to read my mind?’ I love this reaction. Now, I know he was joking, but I have heard this response way more than once and it makes me think of the idea of ‘no smoke without fire.’ Even if it is a joke, why does it come out as that joke more often than not?
It is the logic behind it that I find interesting. Do people on some level think that therapists can read minds? Even Derren Brown, whose stage show is about supposedly reading minds admits that it is nothing more than suggestion, reading of body language and facial expressions and theatricality. So what is it that makes people think of it as a possibility? Is it a fear that a person, because they are a therapist, has a preternatural gift to see inside their very minds? How likely is this? I imagine that if a therapist could read minds it would make a therapy session much easier. (So far, mind reading has not come up in my course, but I wait with baited breath in case it does).
Client: I don’t know what I think about that.
Therapist: Yes you do. I can read your mind and you are repressing it.
Job done in a fraction of the time I think.
I also think that if a person could read my mind, I would just think some really messed up shit about them until they stopped. But that could just be the way my mind works. (I will of course take this to therapy when I am required to attend it as part of my future training).
A quick therapy joke to make another point about when people say to me ‘Your girlfriend (wife) is a therapist? I hope she doesn’t therapise me.’
Q: How many therapists does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: None. The lightbulb has to want to change.
Now, apart from the fact that I love this joke, it also makes a point about it being the client that has to make the effort in therapy if any real progress is to be achieved. I am fairly sure most therapists don’t go around giving away free therapy to all and sundry. (I certainly won’t be. College is expensive and I need to earn my money back). Where is the business sense in that? I wouldn’t spend hours on a painting and then give it away for nothing. This is mainly because I am a terrible painter and people wouldn’t take my work, even if it were free, but I hope you see my point. Also, isn’t it similar to being a chef or a gynecologist? If you spend all day at work doing something, you are not necessarily going to want to do it in your spare time.
The final thing I have noticed is that people tend to talk to me about what Gauri does, rather than talk to her directly about what she does. (Now of course, they can not talk to me about it) I had two conversations yesterday about what she is doing for her thesis. I suggested they could ask her but i got the distinct feeling of ‘Oh no. I can’t ask her. What if she therapises me?’ I find it funny that people are happy to talk to me about what she does. It’s like I am a gateway drug to therapists. Yet, they have a strange fascination about the whole thing, similar to wanting to know what is under the bed but being too scared to actually look.
Now, I am not making any judgements on people’s perspective on therapists. Far from it. People are entitled to think what they think. I am simply curious about the way people think. So, over to you. What do you think about therapists? Are you a therapist that has had any entertaining experiences of telling people what you do?
(I am looking forward to the day when this happens to me. I wonder if people will react the same way in the future though. Therapy seems to be much more mainstream now in Britain. Perhaps we will have a situation in America where it is perfectly normal to have a therapist. I certainly hope so, I really do need to earn my money back. Joking aside, I hope people feel more relaxed and able to access therapy in this country.)
I would love to hear from you.
Take care buddies,