Why I Won't Claim to be an Expert
I'm starting a blog. This terrifies me as it means I'll a) have to follow-through on something, and b) have to take a risk that some people will side-eye the stuff I write. Then I freak out wondering if I have enough stuff to write about for people to side-eye? Do people even blog anymore? I just found out what Vine was like, five days ago, so anything related to social media obviously eludes me. As a chronic people-pleaser with anxiety and what I think may be some form of attention-deficit, the idea of putting my personal/professional thoughts on the internet makes me...well...anxious. It'll also possibly raise an eyebrow or two since I'm a mental health therapist and people sort of bank on me being mentally healthy. Go fig.
But that assumption is actually what made me want to start this thing. What I've noticed since I started sitting with people in their times of hurt and need is that for some reason they assume how therapists help people best is by being an expert who’s immune to problematic ways of thinking and behaving. I don't know why I said "some reason." I'm pretty sure the reason is because a good lot of us make money and gain publicity by acting like experts and doling out expert advice. A lot of us also put on an air that we have the healthy functioning thing down pat by coming from a place of "you should" instead of "me too". Problem is, when you've got someone with seemingly perfect mental health telling you "you should," you might trust them, but you probably won't feel safe enough to be your authentic self around them. That makes good therapy really hard.
I've certainly come from a place of, "Maybe you'd like to try..." or "Have you thought of..." when I've got my therapist hat on, but I've also let myself come from a place of "me too," and like what happens as a result. The Mom feels normal and okay when she admits she doesn't like being around her children 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; the Husband who never wanted to come to therapy in the first place ends up feeling understood and looks forward to coming back next week; the Teenager learns you can still be a wicked successful and content adult even if high school feels like a lonely, daily battle to fit in.
Having a boat-load of knowledge on how to be an effective therapist might indeed qualify us as "experts," to a certain extent. But I think a somewhat problematic next step both clients and therapists take is that being an expert also entails us taking our own expert advice all of the time. I can tell you that’s not happening. Sure, I get inspired by what I’ve learned and do my best to apply it to my own life and relationships, but just the other day I threw “Emotion Coaching” out the window and told my four-year-old “Mean Angry Mommy” was going to come out if she didn’t stay in bed and go (multiple expletives in my head) to sleep. I was so tired and all I wanted to do was watch an episode of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt with a glass of malbec before the baby woke up for the first of his usual five times. My patient therapist-self I was not.
I share this because I want you to know that if you've been sitting on the fence about reaching out for help for fear of being judged by a therapist, don't! The good ones recognize they make mistakes just like you and use their insight to help you, not look down on you. Therapists can be experts on theories, but they can't be experts on you. You're the expert on you. I have some solid insight on how to foster healthy relationships and make positive changes. Together we make a pretty sweet team.
I feel like I help people better when I come from a place of "me too" not "you should." Of course I’m not ever coming form a place of “Help me too!” I’ve got my own therapist for that. The “me too”s I share with my clients are intentional disclosures and all about helping them. And I’m thinking as I continue this blog…which I will definitely never flake out on and keep writing even during So You Think You Can Dance season so help me God…I’ll keep coming from that place, too.