I love working with teens.
They keep me honest. They keep me real. One of my favorite comments from a teen was "I don't know if you're faking it, but if you are, you're doing a really good job.". He did this eyeing me suspiciously. I took it as a compliment.
I told a girlfriend of mine recently that I was bad faker; she looked at me and asked "Really?" I said "Yes. I don't lie very well, I can't pretend, I don't do small talk very well. I consider it a serious disability."
She laughed and then she asked "How then do you work with the clients you do?”
What I heard from her comment was " How then do you fake it when you're listening to your clients when they are sounding completely out of their mind crazy?"
People ask me that from time to time, in all different flavors. "How do you do it? How do you stay sane at the end of the day? How do you not want to kill them? How do you…"
So I tell them what a beloved professor told me at Santa Clara University, "Nothing makes sense in the moment. Your client's behavior may seem disproportionate, incongruent, completely out of their mind crazy, but if you follow their story all the way back to the beginning of the trauma… it always makes sense what they end up doing."
Back then, she explained that it makes sense why an orphan who has been abused and tormented would want to stir glass into the food of their new foster parents. It makes sense why someone who never had any control over their lives would suddenly want to wash their hands 50 times a day and check all their doors and windows over and over again. It makes sense to me why someone who has been abused by their mother would use women for pleasure.
I tell this to my clients who beat themselves up for what they do; when they say "Why am I doing this? Am I crazy?"
I am the first to defend them. I am the first to say, when we finally connect all the dots
“It makes sense to me why you're doing what you do. Can you see the strength, the wisdom, the fierce protectiveness of this bizarre thing you do? You're just trying to protect you. You're doing the best you can to survive."
They weep with relief. I weep with them. Sometimes I am all the compassion they can muster for themselves. Following their story a lot of times through EMDR helps me be true in the moment.
Following their story means that I never have to fake compassion, empathy, or interest. If I am able, in my client's most destructive moment, to hold their story and the picture of the little girl/boy that got hurt -- I can hold/love them. I never have to fake it. I never have to fake it being a therapist.