by Ricky Hornblass, Ph.D.
It is generally assumed that throughout the course of a therapeutic relationship, the therapist is focused on helping his/her clients and that the client receives all of the benefit from the interaction. However, throughout my career as a psychologist, I have come to realize that I often learn many things from my clients:
1. It’s important to be a well-rounded person: During my first year of graduate school I worked with a young child. While meeting with his mother, she mentioned a recent current event which I had no knowledge of. She looked at me and said, “Girl, you better get your head out of those books and know what’s going on in the world.” I am now proud to say that I subscribe to three different news magazines and read about things other than psychology.
2. You need to have fun: Very often on Saturday nights when I feel a very strong desire to get into pajamas and watch TV, I am reminded of all of the time I spend talking to my clients about the importance of getting out and doing things. I get dressed and I go, and like I tell my clients, I always end up having a good time.
3. Change is hard but worth it: I am often amazed at the work my clients put into changing their thoughts/behaviors. Very often we talk about something in therapy and they put it into action during the following week. They will expose themselves to something that they are anxious about, attempt to improve a relationship, or assert themselves while engaging with others. I feel inspired by my clients to make similar changes in my own life and will remind myself of their perseverance when I am faced with a challenging situation.
4. Everybody has problems: Everybody faces challenges at one point or another in their lives. While it may look as if some people live a “charmed life,” they too struggle with the same stresses and troubles that most of us do. What defines us is the way we handle those challenges and our decision to live a happy and fulfilled life despite them.
Therefore, I would like to say thank you to all of my past and present clients who have taught me the lessons listed above as well as many more. You have motivated me to grow as a therapist and a person, and to challenge my own irrational beliefs head-on.