An Open Letter to My Clients

“Most human suffering is related to love and loss and the job of therapists is to help people acknowledge, experience, and bear the reality of life — with all its pleasures and heartbreak. The greatest sources of our suffering are the lies we tell ourselves…People can never get better without knowing what they know and feeling what they feel.” – Bessel Van Der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score, pg. 27

It is not my job to fix you. It is not your job to fix yourself. If something must be fixed, it implies that it is broken. You are not broken. You are a human, made up of a million imperfect pieces of stardust, fumbling through this life trying to be loved and figure out your purpose for being. Along the way, we run into things and bruise ourselves, we pick up things that aren’t ours, we put down things that are. We forget, we remember, we get wounded, we heal. Here, in the therapy room, there is space for it all. There is space for you to bring your wounds, show me the pus oozing out from an infected cut hidden under years of repression and “I’m fine, thanks”. There is space for you to fall apart, rearrange the pieces, and put yourself back together in a form different than what you knew. There is space for you to take off your mask of adulthood and become a child, needing love and attention and affirmation and validation and someone to hold your hand and say “it’s ok, I’m still here.” There is space for you to love, to soar with purpose and passion, to feel strong and take up space. Your failures, your triumphs, and everything in between, here it is welcome, appreciated, honored, and observed.

I will ask you to be gentle, I will ask you to slow down, I will ask you to look at the scary thing you’ve been running away from for so many years. I will tell you to stop talking, put your hands on your body, and listen. I will ask you to create space inside yourself for your voice to be heard underneath all the chatter of the worlds you’ve internalized. I will hold this space for you, and I will ask you to hold it for yourself. I will back off when it is too hard and tell you its ok to run away, to fight back, to freeze up. I will honor the defenses that have enabled you to survive. I will thank them for being here, and gently suggest that they may no longer be needed. I will stand by you when they fight back, knowing that this letting go can mean annihilation, change, the terror of new soul life.

The hours spent in this room will not feel linear. You will not mark off steps on a chart to wholeness and health. You will have days, weeks, months, years where you feel stuck; even when you feel like giving up on yourself, I will not give up on you.

This process, it is not defined or concrete. Life does not happen in the spaces we plan for. Life happens in the spaces in between where we are and where we think we ought to be. The jumbled nature of this work is the beauty, your inner light shines through the cracks. We will ask the hard questions of these cracks of imperfection that you rage against, invite them into the room, give them a chair, and get to know them. “When did you come into being? Why are you here now? What do you have to offer me? Are you willing to try something different? Are you willing to trust me to try to love you?” These parts, the aspects of yourself that you demonize, they hold the answers. The remedy is in the symptom.

It is not my job to fix you. It is not your job to fix yourself. It is our job to be here, gently, patiently, with open arms, holding space for you to learn, to unlearn, and to come home to yourself.

I will walk with you through the desert,

Where death lives closer to life.

The pain you carry is our compass,

Cross the river, pay the rowman the price.

This work, it takes you to the cacti,

Step closer to annihilation my dear.

Allow it, and you’ll find you remember,

All the pain, and the love, you are willing to bear.

Your body is the map we will travel,

Trace the folds and the story appears.

Find your heart, and you’ll know you must break it.

Drop the story, the oasis is near.