Why I quit being a therapist
by Randy Kosloski
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The first moments of a therapy relationship always felt amazingly similar to that instant when you are standing over a pool of vomit with your rags and cleaning product. You don’t know where to start, you don’t know how you’re going to get this done, but you are pretty sure it’s going to be ugly. As awkward as those moments are they are not the reason why I quit being a therapist. To be honest, the reason I quit was because my wife was pregnant, I was working non-stop, and the money was bad. What made it easy to quit was the fact that as a therapist, I never really believed I had a chance of winning the fight for my client’s emotional health. I believed the fight was not with the client or even the client’s emotional baggage it was with the individualistic culture that the client had embraced, a culture that was misguiding them on how to be healthy. The culture’s negative influence was more constant and more ingrained than anything I could offer and for that reason the battle always seemed hopeless. That influential culture preaches self-medicating over healing, independence over community, and self-focus over love and as such the culture left no room for true health. I had such a hard time believing I could help change hearts, I often wondered how Jesus was such a good therapist, changing the world the way he did. Then I remembered ‘no paperwork.’
Of course the paperwork line is a joke but it is true that Jesus did not allow distractions from his mandated work. As for me I am pounded with the idea that I need to distract myself, entertain myself, dream, play video games and do all I can to forget and avoid reality, and I buy in too often. When trying to help someone other than myself overcome the effects of these ideas, the fight was quite different than I imagined. I was surprised that assessing the issues was easy, finding solutions was easy, but getting people to embrace the solutions and work at them, was impossible. Cmy clients seemed to believe that life should be easy and I could rarely convince them of the reality, that healing takes work. Throw out your back and they may give you pain pills for the short term but if you want to get better you have to physically rehabilitate and then work to keep strong if you want to heal. Emotional pain will work in a similar way, you may choose to distract or take pills to endure the short term but if you want to heal you have work to rehabilitate and then work to stay emotionally strong. Culture teaches to self-medicate, gratify instantly, and move on to the next high when one wears off. Yet just like back pain, emotional pain that is covered up will fester, grow, spread, and amplify. Work is necessary but “my yoke is light.” Yoke is work, and Jesus did not say there wouldn’t be any of it. But if we have Jesus’ eternal hope and present purpose it will make life light work.
There is another good expression that says that many hands make light work. In a world filled with people and relationships, I cannot figure out how the ideal of independence becomes so popular. If you don’t have people to share with then the only point to time and money is to have and buy entertainment. And this is often what our culture teaches. The best evidence for this idea is how much entertainment costs. Everyone wants to be an athlete, musician, or an actor because they make incredible money only to entertain us. Their contribution to this world is largely to take attention away from its problems and the work that needs to be done and instead help us forget about world and the responsibilities therein and escape. The ideals of families and communities living and working together are lost. Instead we drive to the city to work come back to suburban homes, lock ourselves inside, and talk on the computer and phone. Most houses do not even have backyards. Accordingly the generations are becoming more lost. Specifically the generations are losing the ability to live with and care for others. Even Jesus had twelve disciples to help him tackle the everyday.
It also seems logical to me that selfishness should not be as popular as it is. I think that the theories would suggest that selfishness is natural (survival of the fittest) but the goal of selfishness is either misguided or irrational in my view. We live in a world with people, animals, and natural resources that fact alone should be enough to inspire harmony and love. Instead we are willing to become harsh, harmful, and even hateful people in order to maintain selfishness. Wars and countless deaths are often perpetuated and sometimes funded with oil money, natural resources and animal life destroyed, but the oil companies press on for the dollar while the world, their world, falls apart. We become people that no one, including ourselves, likes just so we can get the things we like. It makes no sense because you have to live and you have to be. If in living and being you are someone you dislike than your time and effort has been squandered. Unless you can live in your things and that is what we try and do. We try to gain enough things that we can be entertained enough so that we never have to face reality. In the meantime reality is going to hell. As a therapist trying to influence people to invest in their family, friends, and community and not their retirement savings was a tough sell even though what I was selling was the New Testament Commandments and their all important message of love.
A therapist, as in many professions I am sure, there is a definite element of salesmanship. Clients are consumers and you have to convince them that you have something to offer as a therapist. One of my most memorable sessions of therapy was a session where I was actually being a poor therapist and an even worse salesman but a good realist. I remember that the session was with a family that was having trouble with a teenager. The mother was spending most of her time quarreling with the teenager while Dad was having to referee. I wasted no time building any relationship with the family and told them that Dad had to get off the fence and on side with his wife and stop letting the teenager gain control by playing them off of each other. After my curt description of the family functioning I never saw them again and I was pretty sure the Dad of the family hated me. Still, I believe that I assessed the situation well and advised the family equally well but I did not help them because my advice was blunt and uncaring. I was frustrated at the time, working a lot, and having minimal impact so I short-cut relationship and went right to advice. The truth is that the slow and steady therapy is the best, though it can be frustrating work to battle against the culture, as a therapist you give yourself a chance to influence positively. A chance to influence by offering the ideals of community, altruism, and healing as possibilities to people to whom the message maybe forgotten or completely new. Place these ideas in the context of Jesus’ message of love and eternity they can become reality. When you can think of a world that exists beyond yourself, a world that you will be responsible for after you’re dead, then it is logical to live in harmony and love with that world. God is miraculous and also miraculously logical.
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