Being a professional student, counselor, trainee, and supervisor while also being supervised is definitely what can be referred to as role confusion! So many new therapists at the beginning of their careers find themselves wearing several different hats from the clinical setting all the way to academia. I enjoy chasing the high and learning new skills from all of these areas. However, similar to what my clients experience, I also am all too familiar with the grind of long days, endless notes, living (I prefer to say ballin’) on a budget. Working in therapy with a lot of young adults who are just getting started in their own career as well, if feels as if each paycheck that comes in immediately has to go out! From bills, to loan payments, to groceries… living paycheck to paycheck is exhausting and something that many of us go through while we are gaining our sea legs in this crazy career we chose. After some time of trying to save and cutting back on superfluous expenses, we see that savings account grow. What a milestone. I love hearing my young clients rejoice in the fact they reached triple digits in their savings! Hey, we all have to start somewhere.
Lately I have been drawing a lot of parallels and similarities of living paycheck to paycheck to living crisis to crisis. In therapy, I have the absolute privilege of working with individuals in a long-term context. Seeing my clients overcome their traumas and work through crisis is beyond encouraging to me and reminds me every day why I chose my field. However, what we often see is that clients (& counselors too, we are not excluded from the symptoms of humanity!) report each new session with a new and even more challenging crisis or trauma. No doubt, we all encounter new challenges and face novel difficulties; but frequently in sessions my clients discuss how they just do not know how they will ever get through this new mountain. Interestingly enough, I find myself quite perplexed as I reflect back to them all that they have overcome in the past. Do you not remember the bigger mountain you conquered last week? What about the mountain of childhood trauma that you took ownership of before that? Do you remember the time you dominated the self-care mountain after never taking much time for yourself?
Sure, I am strength based in my approach and always incorporate growth and progress in my sessions; but so frequently we live from crisis to crisis, never giving ourselves credit or acknowledgement of all that we have overcome in the past. I do not think that the majority of the time this is intentional. Something about the human brain causes negative events to imprint strongly on our memory that positive ones. Even with that said, living from crisis to crisis can be just as damaging as living paycheck to paycheck. We feel burned out, hopeless, and not very encouraged for the future. It can keep us stuck and even result in some indecision anxiety. Survival mode can only be lived in for so long before it starts to have it damaging effects on us: physically, mentally, and emotionally. Another wonderful reason why therapy can be so effective. Finding a counselor that helps reflect to you when you are triggered into survival mode and all that you have overcome, accomplished, and succeeded in regards to your past crises can help us reframe our current crisis to something much more manageable and palatable. Crisis and trauma are unavoidable. We will experience them. But if you find yourself getting hit over and over again with them, it might be a sign to slow down and reflect on what you have worked through in the past. Living crisis to crisis was something as humans we were never meant to do. Instead, save up your paycheck as best as you can and reframe your current situation. You just might be surprised with how much you end up saving.
Hanna Cespedes is a counselor working on her PhD at Mercer University located in Atlanta, GA. She is currently working within private practice and hopes to serve her local community through promoting awareness for mental health in all walks of life and breaking the stigma surrounding serious mental illness.