Believe it or not, I have a life away from the office! I’m not a therapist all the time!
Over the years, I’ve had many interests other than my profession. I’ve been a marathoner and a bike racer (I raced on the velodrome, that frightening looking banked oval track you might have seen in the Olympics, where I had some of my greatest athletic joy and one of the hardest crashes I’ve ever experienced).
For many, many years, I competed in Masters swimming. I am currently a swim coach for a couple hours a week. And if that isn’t just wacky enough, I took film acting classes here in Dallas and appeared in a few local, low budget horror films, had one small part in a Nick Nolte movie (was left on the cutting room floor). But, not any more.
I have been involved in the Dallas literary scene for many years, with poetry and fiction writing in The Writer’s Garrett of Dallas. A few years ago, I began a memoir which I submitted to the Mayborn Festival of Literary Non-Fiction, where I won an extremely encouraging 3rd place in the big book manuscript contest. I hope to have that done and to an agent by the end of 2019.
Since 2008, I’ve written a column for Texas Lawyer magazine and Law.com on the psychology and emotional difficulties of law practice.
I’ve been married a long time and have two adult children, both of whom I really like a lot. And, that’s enough about me.
This is a big step for you, one requiring a certain amount of trust, but you want that trust to be based on information. So, please allow me to share.
When you are open about your difficulties with another person, you are at one of the most vulnerable points in your life. It is my job to be aware of that and respect it.
But, please know that it is this very vulnerability that is such a huge part of the trip.
You may have heard ‘bad therapist’ stories, that it ‘didn’t work,’ or about people who talk mostly about themselves, or those who behave inappropriately.
Yes, they are out there, for sure.
You may have imagined that therapy is about discovering some horrible truth about yourself, your fatal flaw.
Your doubts are understandable. Be assured, therapy with me is usually about finding out what is right with you.
You might want to know, ‘Do you have experience with my (fill in the blank) problem?’
Chances are good that, in over 40 years of practice, I likely have run into something like it at least once or twice before. If I haven’t and don’t feel competent to help you, I will let you know in our free consult.
But if you still want to know something about me, I’ll tell you a story.
In late 1978, I was a very young, very green therapist trainee at a United Way agency in Garland, Texas. I was working as a co-therapist to a more experienced one, and one of our patients was a young Hispanic mom and her six-year-old son, Joseph.
Neither mother nor son spoke a word of English, and we spoke no Spanish.
Our sessions were entirely gesturing and half-baked stabs at speaking Spanish.
Joseph’s problem was school phobia. While the senior therapist did her best with the mother, I took Joseph out in the yard and kicked a soccer ball around with him. This went on for no more than two, maybe three sessions.
Then we neither heard from or saw them for some time, and calls and letters (the 70s!) went unanswered.
That is, until one day, we received a letter addressed to my co-therapist and me. Written in pencil in broken English, the letter thanked us for helping Joseph with his fears about school and that everything had been so much better since our sessions.
I was astounded, as nothing even remotely like ‘therapy’ had taken place other than to schedule and hold the meetings. The sessions themselves had been nothing more than awkward struggles to figure out what to do next.
That was the first of many lessons this job has taught me – that therapy depends on the relationship between you and me, and the energy we each put into it.
My job is to be here for you, to be quiet, to ask questions and to pay attention. And maybe drop a wisecrack every now and then.
If we can secure that relationship, therapy will proceed. As I said on the home page, you are the author of your own therapy, while I am the channel through which you find it.
Until you know – you don’t know
Another story. There was a guy at my gym who asked me what I did for a living. Having found out, he would ask every day as we changed clothes, “So, Jimmy, how’re the crazies today?”
Finally, one day, tired of this annoying question, I replied, “Ted, you may not know that none of my clients are crazy; they’re people just like you and me.” He never asked me that question again.
Therapists are not people who’ve somehow perfected themselves and risen above the normal sufferings of human nature.
We are, body and soul, people just like you. If we are any good at all, we have been through our share of therapy, as I have.
OK, so let me share once more. At this stage of my career, I regard my work as a craft honed and refined over the decades. I’ve had my ups and downs, but my interest in this work hasn’t changed. I still regard it as a vital expression of my creativity and of who I am.
I look forward to sharing it with you.