Grad school duped me.
I went to grad school to learn how to be an effective therapist. I trusted that everything we learned about theory, communication, ethics, and pathologies would prepare me for what walked into my office. Prepare me for the issues lying deep inside the individuals I’d serve. Newsflash: It didn’t.
Oh, I could nod my head in deep contemplation and ask, “Can you tell me more about that?” I could guide my clients through deep breathing exercises. I was capable of suggesting a mood journal and/or a vision board just like Every Counselor, USA. And I could do a good job of assessing “crazy.” The thing that brings people to my office in the first place.
But there was something missing from the grad school curriculum that no one bothered to mention:
There are those that are fucked up. But then there are those that get fucked up.
The more people that walked into my office, the more evident it became that getting fucked up was statistically significant. Although my clients would never know this because they were duped too.
They thought they were fucked up. They thought their pathologies were born out of their inability to “adult” well, communicate well, listen well, or sustain wellness for their lives.
“I probably just need to stop sweating the small stuff, Michelle”
If only it were that easy.
Honestly, it would have been so easy if it were simply the anxiety, the depression, the stress, or the lack of self-care/wellness affecting my clients. Honestly, these issues would have been so treatable, and the pathologies eliminated, if it were as easy as grad school made it seem. But it wasn’t because grad school never taught us how pathological shame, blame, and guilt were. Especially when the three presented for no discernable reason.
“I hate myself, Michelle”
“The shame is killing me, Michelle”
“I can only blame myself, Michelle”
To know me and my work is to know that I’m as far from touchy/feely as it gets. And to know me is to also know that I’m not threatened by the truth. If you’re crazy, then I will help you deal with that. If you’re responsible for what’s created the shame/blame/guilt, then you’re also accountable. Something else I can help you deal with.
But if the shame looks like …
“I didn’t tell him to stop”
And the blame looks like …
“So it must be my fault”
And the guilt looks like …
“I’m not worthy of happiness”
… You have to ask, “what the fuck?”
And the answer? Conventional ideologies.
Convention dictates how we should live our lives.
“I’m going to high school, then college, then marriage, then kid/s, then 401k, then traveling the country in the RV”
Convention dictates how we should treat ourselves when we don’t live our lives well.
“I must be a slut if I give in so easily”
“I must be stupid if I’m still this crazy”
And then convention tells us how we should process these experiences.
“I’m so crazy I need a therapist to fix me”
I love being a therapist and I can see the value of the work. Work I look forward to every single day. But I always wonder how much work therapists would acutally have if convention stopped shaming/blaming/guilting people for being fucked up and considered that maybe, there’s no place for shame/blame/guilt when you get fucked up.
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