Do Therapists Really Care About Their Patients?
A friend of mine asked me this question and I had a very interesting answer.
Well first off, do nurses really care about their patients? Do soldiers really care about their country? Do priests really care about their flocks? What does it mean to really care for someone anyway?
I really love my work as a therapist. My personal definition of Psychotherapy is: Psychotherapy is a treatment intended to alleviate mental disorders as well as to help empower individuals to come to a deeper understanding of their problems. I want to put out that every therapist has a different approach. My personal approach is about empowering an individual so they can be strong and non dependent on me, their therapist. I guess you can say this is a more humanistic approach.
While writing this definition I thought about including to "also alleviate Abnormal behavior." I taught an abnormal behavior class and what abnormal behavior is defined as is followed by something that consists of the "Four D's." What defines abnormal behaviors are if a person is experiencing the following: Dysfunction, Deviance, Danger or Distress. I did not include this in my own definition because people will argue that nothing is abnormal because everybody is different in their own ways. I agree. The reality is that, abnormal behavior is a real thing. Is it normal for a person to walk down the street yelling at himself? Is it normal for a person to say they want to kill their self and jump off a bridge? Is it normal for a teenager to start fires everywhere he or she goes? Is it normal to constantly feel somatic symptoms such as hand shaking and heart palpitations because your mind is racing? - I personally don't think so. What do you feel about abnormal behavior? (This topic alone will be it's own blog)
Anyway back to the point.
While undergoing training to be a psychotherapist, my supervisor always taught me to leave everything I hear at the door and try not to bring it outside with me. Does that usually happen? Yes and no. I don't bring their life stories with me everywhere I go, but if something outside of the office can help them, then yes they will pop up in my mind. Does it bother me? No, because I love to help and empower people. I love to teach. The reason I think of them is to help them. Lets say if I'm reading a book on listening. Ill probably think of the patient that has a hard time listening to others and think of ways this information can help that patient. Lets say I find information on a support group for LGBTQ people. I will think of my LGBTQ patients and think that this information can be beneficial for them. I am a strong minded therapist and I can definitely control my thoughts. Usually my thoughts outside of therapy are geared towards helping them, not drowning in their emotional sorrows. So do I really care about my patients? Yes and no, it’s my professional ethics that demand that this is what I do, and most psychotherapists do care about the quality of their work. In other words I care to a certain extent because therapists obviously have to have boundaries with their clients. I am not going to care for a patient like they were my child, friend or family member. I will care for them as their therapist and be there to understand them and hear them out. Some therapist develop something called compassion fatigue. (Which I will talk about in a whole other blog)
One thing that does get on my nerves is when I am having personal problems with an individual and someone says, "Oh but your a psychologist/therapist, you should know how to deal with people." This is annoying because I am human first before I am a psychologist. Therapists do have a high tolerance of dealing and understanding people, but obviously as humans we all have an emotional threshold. You think a therapist can stand someone constantly yelling at them and talking down on them everyday just because they are a therapist? No. Psychologists/therapists are humans first. This is why therapy has professional boundaries and this is why a therapist should not self-disclose a lot or get very personal with patients. So please if you know a psychologist or therapist don't assume they don't have emotions. The reality is, we do.
The most important thing to always do as a therapist is self care. My hobbies include going out with friends on the weekends, reading, and going to the gym. The gym is my own therapy and that is where I release all of my problems. I love fitness and dieting. It became one of my greatest habits. Don't be surprised to see a fitness post in the future. LOL
I feel Freud said it best when it comes to this question, "Love and work are the cornerstones of our humanness. Love and work... Work and love. That's all there is."
If you have any more questions about my profession. Please feel free to leave a question in the comment box below.