This one’s personal and continues to represent my mission with The Trauma Therapist Project.
We get up.
We brush our teeth.
We have breakfast.
We feed the kids and have coffee with our spouse.
We head to work, maybe thinking about clients, though never thinking that our world might change that day.
This is a glimpse into how one day my world did change. In fact, how my world shifted on its axis.
Over the course of the past 200+ episodes of the podcast, my guests have shared an incredible amount of knowledge and inspiration.
Each day I wonder how much has sunk into me and what I’ve learned.
This past month I realized that at least a little bit has!
Today I’d like to share a personal story with you about how one of these slices of inspiration I’ve taken from these interviews has impacted my life as a therapist, a husband, a son, and as a father.
It ‘aint pretty, as the saying goes. But it is real.
I’ve been very fortunate that many of the field’s most well-known individuals have been interviewed on the podcast and have shared their journey and expertise:
To name only a few.
But there have also been lesser-known, though arguably equally seasoned, knowledgeable and inspiring practitioners on the podcast, as well as on Trauma Therapist | 2.0, who have offered their passion and inspiration:
again, to highlight just a few.
Certain themes have emerged throughout these interviews.
One of the most significant themes in terms of both the number of times it’s come up, as well as the degree to which it’s influenced and impacted my guests’ growth as clinicians, has been the pivotal role of the therapist’s self-awareness, or more specifically–
Our ability as therapists to be willing to cultivate and maintain a degree of self-awareness and self-exploration.
Why is this so important?
Because without it we are held captive and at the mercy of our own…stuff.
Our own fears, biases, traumas, prejudices, etc, and all of which can easily go unnoticed until we become triggered in session.
And it’s bound to happen. We’re all human, after all.
So here’s where it gets personal:
One month ago, while at work, I received a phone call from my sister informing me that our mother had died.
Her passing was unexpected and sudden.
I was very close to my mother and loved her dearly.
As you could imagine the week following that was a blur of sadness, disbelief, and the sense that my world and myself had come unhinged.
Obviously, people handle these situations in their own way.
For me, I became numb.
Working in a clinic where I see adolescents both individually and in groups, I couldn’t even think about going to work.
I took a week off.
I even canceled interviews for the podcast.
Actually, I thought I could continue with interviewing though I was forced to cancel some interviews at the last minute.
I felt awful and unprofessional.
Six months or so earlier, based on the work I’d been doing with the podcast, I had been invited to present at the ISSTD Annual Conference. An incredible honor and a privilege and something I’d been looking forward to.
A week before I was set to present I had to cancel this as well.
This served to compound my feelings of dread and unprofessionalism.
Irrational perhaps? Of course.
Yet nearly impossible to escape from at the time.
After that week away from work, though I wasn’t feeling 100%, I decided that going back would be a welcomed distraction. I needed to get out of the house and just be around other people.
Once at work however I was unable to focus. When I met with clients I couldn’t be present and also felt myself becoming easily triggered in ways I never previously had.
It was at this moment that I noticed something happening.
Right then I could feel myself internalizing the words, advice and the inspiration of so many of my interview guests on this very topic of the importance of our own self-awareness.
It was as if the wisdom that they had shared was rushing through me. Or rather, that I was listening and absorbing it in a way I hadn’t before.
At that moment, it felt like this was something I desperately needed to do.
I could feel myself listening to my body and my body shouting at me to stop. Doing. Anything. Just stop.
I could feel myself being conscious of the anxiety and fear and the sadness swirling around in my being, and then so clearly realizing that I needed to take care of myself–as a therapist, a husband, a father, and as a son who had just lost his mother.
I’m not a seasoned clinician in the way that my guests are. I haven’t been practicing for decades. I certainly do not consider myself a master trauma therapist. In fact, I began the podcast to learn from such people and to help inspire those looking to get into the field.
That day, I found myself needing to heed this lesson of the importance of maintaining a level of self-awareness so many of my guests have shared. I didn’t have a choice.
It reminds me of the zen proverb:
Let go or be dragged
That day I was definitely dragged. I needed to be. And I’m thankful for it.
I’m not thankful for how all of this came about, of course.
Time has passed which has allowed me to write these words.
I’m back at work. My interviews for the podcast and for Trauma Therapist | 2.0 are still going along.
Listening to myself, however…I feel it’s not only made me a better–more patient, empathic and present–therapist, but a better person as well.
Guy Macpherson, PhD
If you listen to the podcast or are a member of Trauma Therapist | 2.0 then share with me below in the comment section any thoughts, ideas or suggestions the guests have made which have impacted you.