Dinner parties when you’re a psychologist can be a trip. I am invariably asked, “What do you do?” and when I reply, eyes grow wide, a follow-on question hanging in the air: “You aren’t going to psychoanalyze me, are you?” “Nope,” I say with a smile. “I’m off the clock.”
Here’s the thing about what I get to do—essentially sit behind closed doors and have courageous conversations with incredibly bright, talented people that they aren’t having with anyone else in their lives—I get to be a part of a process that creates better leaders and better lovers. I am entrusted with truths that most people are not. It’s an honor and a privilege. It’s an art and a science. The six years I spent in graduate school, and the ones that have followed helped me learn how to best be human with another person in a room.
There are a lot of assumptions made about therapy. The phrases “psychological health” and “mental illness” conjure and stir up all kinds associations and images in peoples’ minds: Let me assure you, modern day mental health treatment looks nothing like anything you watched on “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Next.” My clients haven’t fainted on a Freudian chaise while I mine the depths of their dreams, scribbling notes while I nod in silence save for the occasional “mmmmm…. say more.”
Here’s a secret from the shrink: the people who talk with me each week probably sound and look a lot more like you than you think.
I’m going to pull back the curtain and share what I am privy to as a psychologist. Here’s a real picture of what is happening behind my closed door while the white noise machine whirrs.
PATIENTS WHO CROSS THE THRESHOLD OF MY OFFICE ARE OFTEN STUCK. SYMPTOMS OF ANXIETY, DEPRESSION, SLEEP DISTURBANCE, OR ERRATIC EATING PATTERNS MAY HAVE GOTTEN THEIR ATTENTION. THEY ARE RECOGNIZING SIGNALS HAVE REACHED A THRESHOLD INDICATING A SIGNIFICANT NEED FOR CHANGE.