By Marjorie Koch, Adult Therapist, Jewish Family Service
The question I get asked most often by my clients is: “How do you listen to people’s problems all day?” This always makes me smile as I have never viewed my role as a psychotherapist in that way. When I make the contract with a client to join them on their healing journey, we become a team with the focus of moving the client towards their personal goals by diving into any thought, behavior, or situation that is blocking that path. I have the good fortune of hearing incredible stories of survival every day. Once someone understands what is blocking them from moving forward on their desired path, then we begin the work of shifting perceptions and making new choices.
I think the biggest misconception about counseling is that the person that is receiving the therapy is weak or broken and they are taking the easy way out by having a therapist “fix” the problem. There can be deep shame and embarrassment about “needing therapy” which can be a barrier for many people who could benefit from seeing a counselor. As someone who proudly can claim to being on both the giving and receiving end of therapy, I can report first hand that the therapist does not do the work for you and that it takes strength and courage to evaluate your life and make necessary changes.
The depth and length of the work depends on several factors that are unique to each client. We begin by evaluating if there is an underlying health condition such as depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorder, PTSD, or other condition that could benefit from a medical intervention. Then, we take time to find out who our client is, what they have experienced, and where they would like to go. Once we get the foundation set, we start the interesting and sometimes challenging work of understanding how the client got to the place where they are now and what needs to change to get them moving in a different direction.
The process of that journey, from the privilege of hearing people’s stories and life experiences to walking next to them while they make small changes and ultimately create a more meaningful life experience, is deeply fulfilling. So when I return to that question of: “How do you listen to people’s problems all day?,” the answer is because to me, I am not listening to problems, I am joining a client on a sacred journey to unravel the mystery of what makes them who they are and to hopefully help them leave the process with more contentment and peace.
Marjorie Koch, LCSW, is an Adult Therapist with JFS’ Mynd Works program. To learn more about Mynd Works, contact Marjorie at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 717-233-1681.