Does My Therapist Have it all Together?
A misconception I often hear is that therapists must be enlightened beings that are free from suffering, conflict, and bouts of depression or anxiety. The truth is, a degree and training do not somehow rid one of the normal human experience. This can be a hard pill to swallow for clients. On one hand, some like to put their therapist on a pedestal and prefer to see them as someone that will pass along the “secret sauce” for eliminating the difficulties in life. But when you look at your therapist as someone who does not have it all together, this can be a huge relief - let me explain.
The reality of life is that suffering, pain, anxiety, and many others, are guaranteed. A therapist, doctor, or spiritual advisor will not make this truth go away. What a therapist can do is help you create healthy ways of coping, make space for difficult emotions, and increase flexibility in dealing with the parts of humanity that we might prefer to avoid.
A metaphor I find helpful in explaining this is called the Two Mountains Metaphor, which Russ Harris lays out in his book, “ACT Made Simple.”
Picture it this way. You are climbing a mountain and your therapist is climbing a different mountain right beside you. The view your therapist has from their mountain allows them to see things on your mountain that you cannot see from your perspective. There might be an avalanche, an alternative path you could take, or a better way to use your climbing tools. Your therapist is climbing their mountain while you are as well, making mistakes and learning from them. They have not reached the top. And the top of the mountain is not something we ever reach, instead, we are climbing until the day we die - learning, making mistakes, and growing. Over time, you can get better at climbing and better at appreciating the journey. The work you do with your therapist is more about growing and adapting through the experience, rather than reaching any specific destination.
Could you benefit from speaking with a therapist about your journey and experiences through life? It might be helpful to get a fresh perspective on your mountain, while your therapist is simultaneously climbing their own mountain.