Counseling: It’s not what you see on TV

When I began my journey into private practice, one of the fun parts was furnishing my office.  From the decor to the coffee station and down to the furniture.  I have a smaller space because I like to keep things cozy and so what I had become used to in agency life (3-4 chairs, a table, a desk, etc…) was not in the cards for a cozy office space.  I found myself with the need to put a couch into my office.  In that moment, my “TV Therapist” radar went bonkers!

A Couch… the tell-tale of a TV “shrink”… from the days of The Bob Newhart Show to the modern day Chicago Med office of Dr. Rhodes, viewers would always find the therapist in a chair and the client sprawled out on a sofa.  Even as a child watching the Bob Newhart show, I remember thinking “I don’t want to lay down on someone’s couch to talk about my life… I want to sit up and have a conversation!! And how many people lay on that couch every day?! GROSS!” 

I settled with a love seat.

My family and friends came to see my new office months before I would open my doors to my clients.  Do you know how many people came in and said “you need a bigger couch for people to lay down in!!”

That’s how it dawned on me that I need to probably clarify for those who have never been in therapy that this is not what you see on TV!

We don’t ferverously jot down secret notes on a legal pad that you are not allowed to see. (I might take down some notes here and there so that I can keep track of important things in your life… but you are always allowed to see those notes…).

We don’t always say things like “and how does that make you feel?!” (though I have caught myself a time or two asking that very question… and cringing about being a TV stereotype).

We don’t tell you what to do or give advice.  For real.  We don’t! (We do offer to brainstorm solutions with you).

We don’t make you do things you don’t want to do or are not ready for. (We do challenge you to try those things you brainstormed with us).

We don’t hug you while you sob yelling “IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT” over and over, Good Will Hunting Style (though that was an amazing Ah-ha moment for Will… and now I need to go re-watch that movie).  Though, now that I think about it, we do tend to say some awkward things a lot more frequently than the general population (personally, I’m not much of a hugger in the therapy world, so when I say awkward things, it’s not likely to happen during a prolonged embrace like in that movie).

We don’t go home and tell our family and friends about what we heard in the office today (and, speaking for myself, after over a decade in the field, not much shocks me anymore… and no, your story won’t be the craziest story I’ve ever heard and it won’t scare me away from working with you next week).We aren’t on call 24/7 like the TV therapists and your friends (see my blog about friends vs. therapists).  But we will see ya next time and celebrate how you got through those trying moments between sessions!

And finally, we aren’t emotionless judgmental robots who stare at you knowingly and then say some sort of profound jargony phrase that is going to raise your eyebrows.

We are caring & compassionate human beings who were called into the helping field and chose to delve into academia to mix our heart with our minds so that you can have the quality service that you need.  We aren’t always right.  We tell you when we aren’t right.  We encourage you to tell us when we are wrong.  We work with you, side by side, toward a common goal: your goal (not ours). 

So, when you come to my office, choose your seat… chair or love seat, I don’t mind. I’m just sorry if I’ve shattered your dreams of sprawling out in Bob Newhart’s office.