Many people wonder how therapists manage to do the work they do. How can we sit in a chair week after week for hours on end, listening to other people’s pain and longing? What could possibly make it worthwhile?
There’s more than one answer, of course. But when clients take a leap that propels them out of some longstanding, misery-making behavior, therapists feel their own hearts lift.
Most clinicians experience these luminous moments, but of the thousands of meaningful sessions that take place in a therapist’s office, certain ones stand out. They’re the ones that shake us to the core, experiences so powerful that years—sometimes decades—later, we still remember them.
In Terry Real's "The Found and the Lost," originally composed for a special storytelling event at the 2016 Networker Symposium, he invited us to experience the moment that was most transformative in his own clinical work.
Terry Real, PhD, LICSW, is the author of the bestselling I Don’t Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression, and has been featured on numerous national news programs. He’s the founder of The Relational Life Institute, where he does therapist trainings and workshops for couples.
Most therapists will recognize transformative stories like Terry's. Sometimes, a seemingly ordinary observation we make turns out to be revelatory to a client. At other times, we may hold our breath and take an enormous risk, having no clue whether it’ll fly or fail. Or something shattering happens to a client that allows him or her to seize life, rather than lose faith in it.
What’s clear to most clinicians, though, is that the work they do is breathtakingly intimate. We’re witnesses to the deepest nooks and crannies of human experience. We get to be present for the most vital stories of people’s lives.
Did you enjoy this video? Check out the other storytelling pieces from our other Symposium presenters in the May/June 2016 issue of the Networker, Unexpected Gifts: Six Master Therapists Recall Their Most Unforgettable Sessions.
If you'd like to hear more about Terry's work, check out his article, Rowing to Nowhere: When Is Enough Enough?, where he makes the case for abandoning therapeutic neutrality in couples counseling and examines how our own emotional reactions can influence couples' decisions about whether to divorce.