Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché,
I am a psychology intern and as such I get to sit in on patient interviews. What I have found distressing and a tad overwhelming is that I see myself in many, if not all, of the clients’ struggles. I am left to wonder- am I too messed up for this field?
The single greatest predictor that you will be an excellent therapist is the fact that you can relate to the personal struggles of your clients. Too often in our culture people cling to a paradigm or prescription remedy and view a person from only that truth.
Because of your empathy, you are far less likely to miss the big picture; it is part of human nature to be conflicted. If you can see that at some level they are just like you, it gives you a deep sense of presence. Your presence matters because it is the connection, and not the answers, that will make the biggest difference in another person’s life.
Don’t let the system take that away from you.
Dr. Brilliant Cliché
P.S. a person with absolute conviction and no inner conflict is likely either delusional or developmentally impaired in some way.
Granny says: empathy is good. There is nothing more awful than some “shrink” who sits behind a desk and observes clients as if they were laboratory animals.
Just make sure that you continue to practice empathy and do not lapse into projection or identification. No matter how many similarities there are between people, we are still all very individual. The help that your clients seek demands a certain impartiality as well. When you think you already know what you are looking at, you can miss some of the things that aren’t so obvious.