Hi there! It’s Tamara Bess again. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the director of The Center for Healthy Relationships. It is Saturday morning and I’ve already been at The Couple’s Conference for 2 days. I’m sitting again in front of this beautiful picture window in my hotel room and it’s 8:30 in the morning. The courses haven’t started yet for today, but I just wanted to pop in and share a few things that I’m noticing and appreciating about therapists because I think probably you don’t know some of the things that therapists know about who we are.
The last time I posted it was about risks and taking risks. I said at that time that this is a risk for me. The truth is that I get exhausted by trips like this because stuff comes up for me and when it comes up for me I end up finding myself doing the work. So this morning the thing that showing up strongest for me is the reality that therapists are these incredible human beings. There’s one in particular I’m going to link you to her blog: “ Where Real People Find Answers.” Her name is Weena Cullins. I’m going to put a link to her website on this video. I was looking at her website last night and she was posting about her promotional photoshoot to increase her brand. She shared her vulnerability and what it feels like to put herself out in a public way in front of people. And I think it’s a really interesting thing because therapists are invited to sit in discomfort all the time.
We are talking in this conference about couples therapy and sometimes couples therapy requires you to sit with incredible discomfort as a therapist. I think that people think that when we sit with them and they are struggling with something uncomfortable that we (the therapists) are just fine with it. The truth is that therapists who are effective and empathetic and able to do the work; we let the stuff that is affecting you affect us. Or we let things impact us when an intervention didn’t go well or we let things impact us when we get some kind of feedback from you. The best therapists, the kind of therapists who are nurturing and healing and empathetic and the most impactful are the therapists that allow the work to impact who we are.
What I mean by what I say that is therapy is an intimate dance. It’s a dance between you between your therapist. Or between you as a couple and your therapist. We therapists have to be careful about every aspect of our interactions with you while we’re talking with you. So it’s not just law and ethics that I talked about the first day of the conference, but it’s also things like noticing when one partner in the couple looks sad. Sometimes the decision to say “What are you feeling right now?” is the wrong decision. Sometimes it’s a better decision to let that sadness sit there with someone and focus on something else in session. Sometimes it’s better not to rescue someone when they’re feeling bad, but to let them sit with those feelings.
When I was a brand new therapist, I had a lot of trouble sitting still and letting things be quiet. Now I can sit still and let things be quiet but that’s only because I learned how to get comfortable with discomfort. I think that that’s what this whole video today is about. Your therapist is asking you to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. That’s what we do. If you have a therapist that’s worth their salt, the truth is that that’s what they do. They can sit with ambivalence when you’re not sure. Therapist aren’t always sure either, and we can sit with that we can be okay with that.
If we get back to the discussion that I made a few days ago about risk; getting uncomfortable with doing things that might be a risk and doing it anyway . . . . I’m actually developing some relationship with therapists who are comfortable in the discomfort and that’s what I’m learning that’s going to be one of those takeaways: there are other human beings out there who sit with their clients and allow themselves to be comfortable with discomfort.
So that’s just my installation today pulling the curtain back so that you can see some of the inner life of therapists. I’m thinking about the other thing that happens when I comes to these conferences: my brain just lights up! Sometimes I have trouble sleeping because there’s no time during the day for processing and so processing, for me, happens at night when I should be asleep. That happened last night and now I’m considering starting a podcast. It’s real talk about life. Not clinical issues. Not therapy, but just real talk about life. Real talk about the things that happened to us and how we deal with them. How we struggle with them. Not from a clinical point of view, but from a life point of view and how to overcome those things. Maybe it’ll become sort of a life thing but maybe I also wanted it to be: here’s how I experience life, and experience life with me podcast. So when that happens I’ll announce it here on my website on my blog.
But today I just want to invite you to think about it for a minute – maybe for a minute longer than you feel comfortable. About being comfortable with discomfort.
I’m Tamara Bess Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Have a great day.