The Therapist

I remember the first day of my internship as a counselor in my Master’s program. I had been filled with so much knowledge and a belief that I was supposed to make a difference in people’s lives. My supervisor then gave me my first assigned person and I prepared myself to meet with them. The session time arrived, and I was a little anxious, but also confident that I could help the person sitting in front of me. I began the interview with some questions and listened to their answers and to their story.

Immediately, I could see what the issues were and proceeded to share much of the knowledge I had gained and in short order I had diagnosed and provided a clear path to recovery for my first “client,” all the while thinking how easy this work was going to be. After all, in the course of an hour, I had laid out a clear and logical path of healing for this person who had been struggling for years.

My confidence and arrogance and ego were shattered, of course, when none of what I said helped in any way whatsoever. It was at that moment my internship began in earnest as I started to learn a simple truth. Theodore Roosevelt is credited with the statement that sums up this truth. “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Years later I became a supervisor for counseling interns at a treatment center and observed my own errors being played out right in front of me. Those interns, to a person, entered into those first sessions full of the knowledge gained through their education and were convinced that they would bring healing and recovery by sharing what they had learned. And, to a person, they found out what I found out.

What I shared with those interns and the thing that I had to come to understand myself is that my education changed me. The things I learned helped me understand myself and the world around me differently. Much of my education was transformative when that new knowledge seeped into my own mind and soul. I told them that we can’t bring our education into the room with these people, we have to bring our changed selves.

Time and experience continues to provide me with education as I sit with people struggling with destructive behaviors, past trauma, fears, instability and hopelessness. Each story I hear, each person I see, each therapeutic relationship I enter into, educates me and changes me. And, I’d like to think, those things make me a better counselor.

Now, it needs to be made clear that we cannot underestimate the value of education. There is no substitute for learning. Knowledge of how the mind works and what interventions are most helpful is indispensable. These techniques and understandings become our tools helping us in our work. However, the most important tool we have is our authentic self.

*The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders and not intended as endorsement by iaedp™ Foundation, Inc. or its Board of Directors.*

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