Understanding How To Guide from the Place of Feeling Lost
Irvin Yalom’s book “The Gift of Therapy: An Open Letter to a New Generation of Therapists and Their Patients” has greatly inspired the work I do as a therapist. Not only does his perspective provide great advice but also encouragement when I’m feeling worn out or confused as a therapist.
“The active therapist is always evolving, continuously growing in self-knowledge and awareness. How can one possibly guide others in an examination of the deep structures of mind and existence without simultaneously examining oneself.”
In my own examination, I’ve been learning to handle my own insecurities toward vulnerability. And, similar to finding the bravery to be vulnerable, I'm giving myself the permission to walk into the unknown even when I am feeling lost or anxious about my work.
Now, that might sound bad off the bat, but the opposite is equally unappealing. I think it would be really unhealthy as a therapist to have an attitude of, “I know better than you and one day you’ll come around and see what you should be doing. One day, you’ll be as smart as me and see what’s going on with you.” I think that would be horrible! I absolutely wouldn’t want a therapist who thought this way about me!
Sure, as someone sitting back and observing what they say from a different perspective, I can definitely see things more clearly than my clients can at times. But this doesn’t mean I always know which direction to go. This is a really bizarre role to be in because, on one hand, it is uncomfortable for me as a therapist to not know immediately where to go with a client. And on the other hand, it is sometimes the exact place that I need to be in in order to be truly helpful. How weird is that?
This experience of feeling lost actually allows me to give my clients the space they need to grow and explore and heal themselves.
“Sometimes I feel like a guide escorting patients through the rooms of their own house. What a treat it is to watch them open doors to rooms never before entered, discover new wings of their house containing parts in exile — wise, beautiful, and creative pieces of identity,” Yalom continues.
As the guide, there is such a big part of me that just wants to know which room they should go to next, what to give them, what to teach them. And often I do know, but when I am feeling lost, I have found that simply being open and willing to walk this path with my clients is when I offer the most to my clients. In fact, it gives them the tools they need to find the answers and healing within themselves and grow stronger.
Today, I am grateful for those moments of feeling lost. I am grateful for realizing that between this role of being a guide and the knowledge that I do not hold all of the answers is where I create space for my clients to heal. I am grateful for the honor of guiding the individuals in my practice toward self-discovery and freedom.