I’m Not Reading Your Mind. 4 Things You Should Know About Good Therapy/ Therapists
Updated: Apr 1, 2020
I don’t know for certain that there aren’t psychics in the world…
...But I know for certain that I’m not one.
I also know that over the last decade as a mental health worker my attitude towards the ubiquitous “so what do you do?” question has changed… a lot.
There have been times that I’ve been proud to disclose my career spanning several different mental health focused jobs — and now finally a therapist. But when I tell folks I’m a therapist there are more often than not people who look at me with instant discomfort. They follow up with some sort of crappy question like, “so you’re reading my mind?”
This happens so often and has been so annoying that I developed a whole series of snarky comments to cycle through at parties. I’ve even gone so far as to decide with my wife which bogus profession I’ll tell people I’m in before going to a party (roadkill examiner was my favorite).
But currently, I’ve got a bit more energy, so I can approach these situations with a better attitude:
All the discomfort people feel from learning that I’m a therapist is actually about the stigma around mental health and seeking out mental health support. I want to help break that stigma.
So, I’m taking a new approach and filling people in on what good therapy and therapists are really about.
4 Things You Should Know About The Therapist At The Party
1) Good therapy is not what you see on TV (seriously it makes my skin crawl). It’s not about laying on some dispassionate bearded white guys couch as they nod along and ask you, “how does that make you feel?”
Good therapy is about being in connection with a trained professional who actually cares who you are, what you’re experiencing, and what needs to happen to help you develop your agency as a whole person.
2) Therapy is not about telling someone all your problems and paying them thousands of dollars a year for them to slowly tell you all the secrets of a happy life (seriously, none of us have all the answers, or even a majority of the answers. There’s no secret book of happiness that all therapists get once they graduate school.)
Good therapy is about your therapist helping you develop a belief in yourself, strong enough to know that you can find your own answers. And, that even if you don’t, you’ll survive to keep trying.
3) Meeting with a therapist is not meeting with a mind-reader.
I can’t read your mind. But I am an empath. I’m someone who is attuned to my surroundings and to the experiences of others. In all likelihood, if you’re feeling anxious, happy, afraid, jealous, whatever, I’m probably picking up on subtle little cues in your body language, tone of voice, movements, etc. It’s not that I’m intently studying you. It’s that this is the information my mind and body notices.
4) Good therapy is not someone telling you how good a job you’re doing no matter what. It isn’t someone holding your hand and telling you everything is going to be alright. Nor is it someone who holds up a mirror to every little flaw you have and tells you how much more you need to “fix.”
Good therapy is unconditional positive regard. A good therapist will celebrate with you when you’re doing well, and point out when you’re causing harm. But will not be judgmental, will not shame you, will not blame you for everything that’s happened to you. They will never stop caring for you or abandon you when you feel out of control and broken.
If you or someone you know has been avoiding therapy because of the stigma around mental health and healing professionals, please take a few moments to reconsider. There are amazing healers in your area that can be truly supportive to you and your loved ones.
Today is the perfect day to begin reaching out for support.
Always remember two things: Healing Is Possible, And It’s When We’re In Connection With Others That We Thrive.
Hudson Wilkins, MA, LPCC, EMDR, IFS. Hudson is a nature and mindfulness based trauma therapist inFort Collins, CO. He operates a private practice with a specialty in supporting folks who have experienced sexual violence first hand, and those that love them to heal and rebalance their lives.