Recently I witnessed one of my closest friends giver her testimony in front of her church. She talked about how she struggled with some things and how God has used that in her life to help others (she is also a therapist). It took a lot of courage for her to be vulnerable, even with people she knew were supportive and loving in her life. I am thankful I was there to support her.
It got me thinking on the way home about some things.
I used to believe that as a therapist I’m supposed to have it all together all the time. We are taught as therapists to have a professional distance from our clients. We are to limit our self-disclosure with clients about our own struggles. While these limitations are certainly helpful and ethical in the professional setting so that we can be objective with our clients,(because there is nothing worse than dumping your own junk onto your clients) there is a danger that this distance can carry over into the rest of our relationships and become a protective façade that we have it all together all the time. In the beginning of my career somewhere I allowed that lie into my life, and learned how to put on a good face, and somehow believed that when I am vulnerable with my emotions that somehow I am weak. I believed that I have to pretend that I have it all together all the time.
The truth is, therapists are people who hurt and go through things just like everyone else. I have been seeing my own therapist for almost 8 years now to deal with my own work/life balance, anxieties and times when I’ve hit burnout. The more I meet with people, work with my clients, supervisees and talk to colleagues, I believe now that there is a purpose for our challenges, whether that purpose is revealed to us or not. God will use them to work through us for the good of others and ourselves.
It’s never without a purpose. That’s why I believe being vulnerable with others about our struggles is so healing. I could see the hope, joy, and peace in my friend’s face as she took the courage to share, and how the façade came down in her life and she could be vulnerable with others. It was freeing.
For more information on being vulnerable, watch Dr. Brene Brown’s Ted talk on her vulnerability research.