In my work as a family therapist, I come across many complex families. This is the type of career that you often leave at the end of the day thinking “Well… now I’ve really seen everything.” And most of the time, something even more astonishing takes the cake the very next day!
I remember early in my training coming across a family that was impossibly stuck. The layers of dysfunction and hurt were palpable the moment you sat in the room with them. I thought to myself, “Wow, I hope someone can help them.” Then it dawned on me… I was the “someone” this family was coming to to help them. Wait. Oh shit. I’min charge?
That’s right folks! Me. I was to be the keeper of the hurt, the enforcer of the rules and the sorceress who would make it all better. I held the answers. The only problem was that somewhere during all the years of grad school and interning… I was never told the answer! I missed the class where they handed out the blueprints that said “this is how you heal years of hurt in a 45 minute session once a week”. Man, we were screwed.
It’s only in hindsight that we can see the beauty in the moments like this. That undeniable feeling in your gut when you stand on the edge of a precipice, realizing that this is the moment the rest of your life changes with one single decision. That is the moment you are the most alive.
I was faced with the choice to jump ship and find a “safer”career, or dive in head first and trust that I truly had the answers. And guess what? When I jumped, I found out I could swim! Well… it didn’t end up being a graceful Michael Phelps-like glide to the finish line. It was more like a doggy paddle with floaties on. But I survived and came out the other side with an experience I will never forget. That family challenged me and sparked a growth that I never could have experienced otherwise.
The truth about therapy that most don’t realize is that we (the professionals) don’t have all the answers. Most the time, we don’t have a single answer you don’t already have inside of you. Your journey is yours, and you were born with the tools to travel your road. My role is to create the safe space for you to learn to use those tools and remind you to forgive the mistakes you are bound to make. To hold your hand while you stand on the edge of that cliff, much like I did, and make the leap knowing you already know how to swim. To quiet the voice inside that screams “You Can’t” and replace it with your newfound fight song. And to help you realize what you want to run away from the most is exactly what you need to run towards.
Just keep swimming.