Being a therapist requires empathy, patience, active listening and unconditional positive, just to name a few skills needed to be an effective therapist. We see clients that come into our offices with past and current traumatic experiences. They are seeking support from us to help navigate and guide them to a clear path, often. Sometimes, we get clients that need more intensive support including more than once weekly therapy sessions, outside resources and medications. Graduate school teaches us about diagnoses, treatment planning and theoretical orientations. Graduate school, in my experience, does not teach you how to handle the client that is sitting across from you for the first time. It does not come with a manual per se.
Just as we need skills as therapist, we also need skills to be a mother. Some of these are, in fact, the same skills needed as a therapist, with additional ones. Additional skills include love, extreme patience, (for those sleepless nights) and a solid understanding of how babies work 😊. When I first had my daughter, I understood what to do as a mother as I saw my family raise children long before I had mine and worked in daycare centers. I thought I knew what to expect. Oh!! Was I wrong! Just as with being a therapist, mothering, too, does not come with a manual. I have enjoyed learning and growing as a mother these past 6 years, but it is not easy at all! I have found that mothering is 24/7 while thankfully, doing therapy is not!
Most of my work experience as a therapist involves me working with children and adolescents. During the first few years of my mothering, I found myself working with children that were close in age as my own daughter at those times. It was tough working with clients and then coming home and having to give my daughter the same (if not more) energy than I gave the clients that I had just left. It was exhausting. Full transparency here: I had difficulty separating therapist and mother. I was treating my daughter as one of my clients. Something was wrong and I felt guilty and embarrassed.
You are wondering how I changed this. Well, I will share. I changed my mindset and my routine. I changed my mindset by understanding that my daughter is NOT my client and acting on that understanding. I had to tell myself that she does not support in the way that my clients do and that her actions are developmentally appropriate. I had to allow myself to be open to mothering in a way that is beneficial to her. As for my routine, I started changing the sweater that I wore home so that I could have a tangible thing to show that I was about to be in “mommy mode” and to turn off “therapist mode.” It was a game changer for me. On the ride home, I was able to recharge and get prepared to have fun and let loose, which looked different during therapy sessions with the kiddos. Now things are completely different, and I can enjoy doing therapy and mothering.
I leave you with these reflective questions: What are some ways you recharge when you go back home to your families? Have you experienced treating your children and/or family members as clients instead of loved ones? If so, has it changed and if not, what steps can you take if you want to make that change?
Janeisha Hood Rogers is a doctoral candidate in the counselor education and supervision program in Chicago, IL. She is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) that has worked as a therapist in various settings including schools, community mental health agencies and in-patient hospitals. Janeisha is also a social justice advocate and enjoys raising awareness and educating others on mental health topics, social and cultural issues, and holistic healing.