As a Clinician, my job is NOT to just sit and listen passively while someone chats with me-- or at me-- for our scheduled time. For those who have said (or thought) "your job is easy... you just sit and listen to people" know you're accurate-- but not. Your perception is incomplete. It's like saying the ocean has a little water in it.
Like the editor of a novel, I'm attending to moods, subtleties of wording, changes in mood and theme, code words, and to the silence that may occur. The editor isn't just looking at punctuation, grammar, and spelling. She or he isn't "just reading" but is a technician and an artist. That's what I am, WE are. The technician, the artist, the shaper of an already formed soul, the guide and helper whenever possible. But more, or perhaps different, from the editor, as the clinician, we also absorb the pain and hurt of others. I listen to their secrets and lock them safely away in a place of caring and respect. I listen to their fears about living and dying and everything in between. I learn about fear and trauma, love and hate, laughter and grief, bigotry and redemption, regrets and reconciliation, and human growth and stagnation. I listen, waiting for the chance to help make a subtle change with that person. I listen for ways to make the unbearable bearable. Offering input, tasks, perceptions, support and feedback. All of this with the goals to relieve the source of discomfort or pain. Sometimes to bear witness to their experiences, which others have not been privy to.
Sometimes I sit. I hold their hands as they cry or sometimes die from illness. I wipe tears of fear and joy. I share the impact they have on me with them. Reminding them that we're all human and, in our own right, have something special and unique within each of us. I offer no forgiveness of "sin"--who am I to do that? I offer comfort and hold them (and myself) accountable for actions and beliefs. I use arts and music to ease their struggles. I also use laughter and joy. Because life is not limited to depression, anxiety, or trauma. So there can be joy shared and expressed in therapy.
Then I come home. I wash the pain of the day off me nightly. I hug my family and let go of the day.
But whatever I am doing.. I am not "just sitting and listening." I have skills as a technician to diagnose and treat a variety of concerns, I am fortunate to have talents to intervene, have the education and training to make all of it make sense. I am able to be an artist in my own right-- as I help clients. Therapy is a wide-ranging and a varied job, Each interaction is unique with no "easy" answers. Sometimes I'm not a perfect fit for a client-- and I hope that person can be seen by a better match. Because therapy on both ends isn't "black and white." It is full of all the subtleties of all humanity and I am lucky to be part of that human journey.