The work life of a psychotherapist

Today I switched my appointment diaries. 2015 goes into storage and 2016 becomes the main game. Before I put 2015 away I had a look through it. All those names and people in there came as a bit of a surprise to see it in an overall kind of way. This is how I earn my living. It is a strange way to earn a living. People who are complete strangers come and see me in my office and usually they are remarkably candid. Often within two sessions they are telling me some of the most intimate aspects of their lives. Not uncommonly one hears them say I am the first person they have ever told such things and they may have been married 20 years and never told their husband or wife or any other very close person.

I suppose the guaranteed confidentiality helps them be so candid and also the fact that I don’t have any other relationship agenda which family always does. It can be hazardous getting advice from family members because often they have their own agendas about family relationships that will taint their advice to suit them. Of course, as a stranger, I don’t have that problem and I guess many people know that at some level.

As I look through the pages of last years diary I see some names I know well and other people who I saw only once or twice. Some of those I can recall quite clearly which surprises me a bit, that I remember them. I recall what they look like and some of their story which they told me. Others however I have no recollection at all of who they were or what they looked like.


Some would say those I don’t recall had impacted me personally. There was something about that client which I identified with and they reminded me of things in myself which I do not like. When they leave my unconscious quickly swings into action and shoves all those memories about the client and the unwanted thoughts about myself into the unconscious. Hence I quickly forget who they were and have no recollection of them at all. While I can recall others quite clearly.

Then I see one name that stands out and I only saw here two times. I recall her and she was a nice woman. When I take a history on the first meeting I always ask how they heard about me. She told me that her friend gave her my name and contact number. My name and number had been scribbled on a piece of paper and she had kept it in her wallet for 5 years. The client showed me the piece of paper she still had in her wallet. And there was my name and landline number scribbled on a small piece of paper. She had kept it in her wallet for five years before ringing me which is why I recall her as that is quite odd.

It also allows me to know stuff about her even before she has told me her story. She probably comes from a background of distant protection. She perceives her protectors (parents) to be there but they are in the distant background. She felt they were there but in the distance a bit. She didn’t feel completely abandoned but she did feel she had to do it on her own as the protectors were only in the distance. My name on the piece of paper she had used as a form of security and hence she had kept it near to her for so long. But my ‘protection’ of her was distant because she never actually called me. As we all do, we recreate our current lives to be a replay of what happened to us as youngsters and hence I knew some of her story even before she told me. I suspect she will call me again in a year or two.


For some therapy can be like this


I see another name that I know well and it comes up many times. A delightful 30 something woman who had come to see me throughout the year. After seeing her a few times I didn’t expect her to return many times, but I was wrong and she did for most of the year. At one point I asked her why she kept coming here and she said that it allowed her to get clear in her head what she is doing and thinking.

That type of answer is typical. Like

“I feel I can trust you”

“At last there is someone who I feel actually hears me”

We have all our fancy theories and techniques but for this type of client it’s just that simple. The person feels a connection with the therapist and that is what really counts. Always good to remind myself of that regularly.

Goodbye to 2015 and hello to 2016 and I guess in January 2017 I will be musing the same again as I look back in my 2016 diary.

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