I had to get my brakes fixed on my car this week. On my way to the dealership, I was thinking about the effects that bad brakes have on my daily routine. When the brakes are in good working condition, I find myself not thinking about backing up or stopping. I just get in and drive. Wondering if the brakes work is one less thing I need to think about when navigating the roads. My focus needs to be on defensive driving, following directions, and obeying the speed limit. When the brakes start to slip, or go out altogether, suddenly every decision made in the car becomes laser clear. Senses are high alert, my breathing becomes labored and my heart beats wildly until the car is safely off the road. Always precautionary, I remove my unsafe vehicle from the masses until it is fixed, fit and ready to be on the road with other vehicles and motorists again.
Our clients often come to us with bad brakes. Many times they are on autopilot, just coasting through their days, getting from one place to another, ticking off items on their to-do list. Sometimes, seemingly out of nowhere, tragedy strikes and the brakes go out. The road of life becomes bumpy and harder than normal to navigate smoothly. Other times, the brakes start slipping a little here and a little there. “I can have just one just this time” or “30 more minutes won’t hurt anybody” or “We do have 3 kids together” and the client slips back into old habits without noticing the damage incurred along the way.
As therapists, I feel one of our responsibilities to clients is to support them when they have brake trouble. Teaching clients to recognize the signs in themselves that maintenance will be necessary soon is an important skill we all need to impart. We all travel on the same roads. I’d much rather be on the road with other drivers who have well maintained brakes- wouldn’t you?
______________________________________________________________________Elizabeth Curd is a counselor educator in the great mitten state of Michigan. She specializes in helping the Millennial and Generation X population, specifically: surviving adolescence, navigating adulthood, career development and organizational management. She works in East Lansing, MI.