Therapy is an investment in your future—it helps you to live an overall better life, starting with your very first session. Now, there are many different forms of therapy from cognitive behavioral therapy to interpersonal therapy, group therapy, relationship counseling, life coaching, and so on—yet each method shares a common thread: a dedicated and caring mental health professional. These professionals are devoted to helping you and want nothing more than to see you thrive; but it’s important to realize and acknowledge that they’re people too. They aren’t numb to emotion and they aren’t on the clock 24 hours a day—they have needs, flaws, and feelings, just like me and you. Here are seven things they want you to know, which will help you to better understand a therapist’s life and mentality:
1) Therapy isn’t just a service, it’s a business.
While many look at therapy as a helpful service—which it is—it is also a business that provides a means of living to the therapists. “I have to charge clients a fee in order to pay bills and provide an income for my family,” Jim Seibold, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, explains. “The overhead for running a therapy practice can be expensive. Unfortunately, some feel surprised—even offended—when discussing fees. Some people seem to believe that since we are charging a fee to be helpful, we must be acting selfishly. I love my job as a therapist and find great joy in helping others. I also want to support my family in the process.”
2) Therapists aren’t perfect.
Despite popular belief, therapists aren’t perfect; they make mistakes just like everybody else. “Therapists are regular people. We have a particular education and experience in helping others, but we are not better at life than anyone else,” says Seibold. “We have our own flaws. What makes a therapist effective is not their superior knowledge about life, but their specific education and objectivity. Because they do not have a relationship with their clients outside of the office, it allows them to have a more objective viewpoint. Not necessarily a better one, just more objective.
3) Their time is valuable, just like yours.
Therapists are dedicated to helping you, but that doesn’t mean you can take advantage of their services and their time, as explained by Seibold: “Therapists’ time is valuable. If you need to cancel an appointment, that is understandable. Things happen. Just try to give us enough notice to fill the space. Other clients may need that time. It is also income we are losing, so don’t be surprised when you are charged for a late notice or no-show. We have a limited number of appointment slots available per day, so when someone misses their appointment, it is expensive and inconsiderate of other clients.”
4) They have feelings, and they truly care about their clients.
Although therapists are trained to address difficult situations, they do become emotionally invested in their clients: “Therapists care about their clients. It is true, we are paid to offer therapy services,” says Seibold. “However, we do the work because we care about people. We care about helping people find relief from their pain and solutions to difficult challenges. We feel a great deal of satisfaction and joy watching people grow and achieve their goals. Most therapists see their work as a calling, not just a job.”
5) Therapy can be exhausting.
While therapy is designed to help individuals work through a given issue, the process can be hard on the therapist. “Listening, being empathetic is really hard and can be exhausting,” explains Licensed Clinical Social Worker Erin Asquith. “Although it may seem like an easy desirable job, listening to people’s issues and helping them… it’s really hard to remove yourself, not think about yourself, and solely focus on your clients. There’s a real art to active listening.”
6) They aren’t experts in their personal lives.
They may be trained to help people improve their personal lives, but that doesn’t mean therapists are experts in their own lives. “I also wish people would understand that just because I’m a therapist, it doesn’t mean I always have my own stuff together,” says Asquith. “I can still be irrational in my personal life. We have flaws just like everybody else, and we can’t always be in therapy mode.”
7) They have a life outside of work.
And lastly, therapists have a life outside of work—they want and need a break just like everybody else, as explained by Asquith: “Just because I’m a therapist, doesn’t mean I’m always on duty, and want to be the person everybody turns to just to be their ‘friend therapist’ or ‘family therapist.’ It’s my job, which means at times, I like to take off from my job, and just be me!”