My career as a healer began in 2000 on a lark when I followed my then-boyfriend into a clinical hypnotherapy training.
At the time I was helping that boyfriend make sculptures of mythological figures and sell them in new age stores. My BA in journalism was being put to good use writing little treatises on spirituality and archetypes and publishing them as ‘zines. Needless to say, we had no money.
I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life and now I see I poured myself into his world. The hypnosis class was something he was very sure about, because he wanted to teach meditation classes. I thought it would be fun and probably didn’t want to be alone for the weekend. Something about it sparked something in me, but I didn’t think about it much at the time.
Once at the training, my attention was caught by the instructor’s focus on numerous clinical situations, working one on one with people. That sounded fun, and marked my journey away from being a helper-girlfriend type and towards doing my thing.
Brazen, young and armed with my certification, I convinced an attorney to rent me “office space” in his basement, painted the walls purple, and put out a shingle. I stapled posters to telephone poles and tacked them to bulletin boards in the small Massachusetts town I lived in.
People called me! Like, real, respectable people. (And a few others.)
Me! The person who lived rent free at my boyfriend’s mom’s house.
I was helping people with weight issues, smoking cessation and sports performance. Then one day, one of my clients went into a painful childhood issue and began to sob in the middle of a hypnosis session.
Fifteen years later, forged on the anvil of a Master’s degree, 2000 supervised intern hours, and countless licensed hours sitting with people in all kinds of mental and emotional pain, I think my instincts were good that day. I stopped the guided visualization and just listened, I tracked the client’s mood and affect, tried to help them into a more resourceful mental state, and made sure they had made a shift to present-centered awareness with an improved mood before they left.
But at the time, I was like, holy shit, I have no clue what I’m doing.
That might have discouraged some to quit. But being so close to real human suffering, and then being able to help someone see their pain in a different way and therefore experience a state of feeling healed, it gave me a rush.
I knew I had no clue what I was doing. But I wanted to learn.
I looked at schools. The right one brought me back to the West Coast, got me back into my personal psychotherapy, out of that relationship, and on the path I’m on still.
I took an internship working with acute and chronic mental illness.
I learned ethics. I learned boundaries. I learned skills and honed my instincts. People taught me what to do in a crisis, when to push, when to be gentle, how to deal with my crap that comes up, and how to ask colleagues for help and support.
From the very start of graduate school, I wanted to be in private practice. While I learned an incredible amount as an intern, I was burning out in hospital and agency settings.
I was told that it was risky. One family member told me I should go to work for the state and another said I’d be better off in HR.
I didn’t fit my own internal stereotype of a therapist.
I didn’t own any shawls. My hair wasn’t a curly halo. My voice was not soft.
I didn’t always feel like I had it all together, but I watched people change under my care anyway.
I like to help, and be close to the pulsing heart of human emotion, and watch others shift. I take it seriously, the sacred trust with other human beings.
And it’s still a rush.
Why tell this story? Because somewhere out there an unconventional person might want to start a career in mental health and either hear from others or tell themselves that because they live in their boyfriend’s mom’s house or are covered in tattoos or have a history as a sex worker or have suffered their own trauma they shouldn’t do it, the profession doesn’t need them as much as the normal people.
It needs you more.