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Apr 26, 2010

I Am a Therapist in Therapy

Several professors in my graduate program recommend that students participate in therapy if they want to become excellent therapists. For the longest time, I nodded my head, smiled, and thought, "That's a good idea. Maybe one day I'll call and make an appointment." That one day turned into a year. When considering beginning my own therapeutic journey, the following thoughts danced in my head: My life is "normal." Why do I need therapy? What will I talk about for an hour every week? What will other people think if I told them I'm in therapy? What if I don't connect with my therapist? What if I learn something about myself that I don't like? How can I professionally advocate for a field that I haven't personally used? The final question listed above is what pushed me to make the phone call for my first appointment a month ago. I am in the process of creating my professional identity, and that process includes learning how to advocate for clinical mental health services. I love the mental health field, and I truly believe that everyone could use a good therapist – except me. How hypocritical is that? I want to practice what I preach. So, here I am – a therapist in therapy. And, it is a wonderful treat for both my professional, and more importantly, my personal life. I now have a taste of the power inherent in therapeutic relationships, the beauty found in honest confrontation, and the self-awareness discovered through keen observations. I have learned that my life is far from "normal." (What does that word even mean anyway?) I do find things to talk about for an hour every week – sometimes longer. Also, that hour includes moments of silence as well, which can be awkward but are necessary. When I share with friends that I'm in therapy, most of them are supportive. Some wonder why or don't understand, but I'm slowly learning that's okay. I connect with my therapist, and I appreciate her honesty and (minimal) self-disclosure with me. Finally, I have learned (and am still learning) many things about myself. Some of them I like, and some I don't. However, the parts I don't still contribute just as beautifully to the mosaic that is my life. So, fellow counselors and graduate students, what are your thoughts on being a therapist in therapy? For those involved in a therapeutic relationship, what lessons are you learning, and how have you applied those lessons to your professional and personal lives?
Courtnay Veazey is a graduate student at Mississippi State University pursuing a Master of Science in clinical mental health counseling and working as a graduate assistant at MSU's Career Center.

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