Oct 25, 2021
It rained. Most of the time, I love rain, but today I fell spectacularly on my butt. I brushed myself off, checked my outfit for stains, and puttered on. I think that fall is representative of my life at the moment: doing my best to deal with the unexpected. There were a lot of firsts for me lately. There’s the obvious one: I just turned 21, and I’ve never been that old before, although it doesn’t feel very different.
Today was also the first time I did therapy in front of the class. Role-playing isn’t easy, least of all with an audience. I chose a modality called EFT (emotion-focused therapy), where you focus on the emotions of the argument rather than the content. I found myself being the mock therapist for a couple. I set a ten-minute timer on my phone and nervously started.
The nerves evaporated in seconds, and the audience melted away. What I saw were not my two classmates wearing business casual but a grief-stricken couple, overwhelmed by the responsibilities of too much work and too little time with the child they now had to be foster parents for. When the timer rang, I was brought out of my reverie and continued for an additional 5 minutes before ending. I looked at the audience that I just remembered I had, and (miracle of miracles?) people thought I did well. More than well. I got compliments from people I had barely spoken to. One of them joked that she’d like a session with me next. The professor asked me what I learned. “I learned that I love couples therapy,” I blurted out. After that class, which I left on a high, I had another “first”: my first time sneaking in somewhere.
If you don’t know me, allow me to set the scene: a type-A, mildly perfectionistic girl who follows rules (unless those rules don’t make sense to her). Now, let me tell you about my school. My school is a doctoral program in clinical psychology that costs as much as a down payment on a house. The building that our school is in offers a free gym for those who use that building.
Which would be us, right? Students? Apparently not. The gym staff saw that students were taking advantage of an amenity that our tuition happens to cover, so they decided to ban us. As of now, the only people who can use the gym are school staff. Not students.
This struck me as extremely unfair. Indignant (and not wanting to get soaked on the walk to LA Fitness), I decided to try my luck at the gym anyway. First, I scanned my ID. It didn’t work. A guy saw me standing outside the door and opened it for me. Shocked, I realized that I was officially inside the gym. But my grouchiness did not end there. I wanted what we students were rightfully owed! So, I summoned my inner Karen (she gets just a little closer to the surface every day). “Are you a student or staff?” the gym worker asked over the phone. I said that I was a teaching assistant. Her demeanor immediately changed. “Does your ID work yet?” she asked.
Uh oh. She thought I was standing outside the door, still trying to enter. In reality, I was preening in the fancy locker room mirror and figuring out how to use the lockers.
“One second,” I told her, hopping out of the locker room with one shoe still untied.
I ran to the door, holding it slightly ajar so I didn’t lock myself out. I jiggled the doorknob so she could hear me over the phone. Eventually, the lady made my school ID work on the door, not just for today but forever. And I ended up exercising in the swankiest gym I’ve ever stepped foot in.
After the gym, I went to class. I did some reports for work.
I thought I’d be able to do even more work once I got home, but lately I’ve been using the “good enough” policy.
The Good Enough policy is this: you just got home at 6 pm and your energetic pitbull wants to play with a tennis ball, so you are going to throw that tennis ball. Then you will talk about your day with your family. You’ll eat dinner. And then you will watch Season 3 of You way too close to your bedtime.
What you won’t do is work. You won’t spend your evening thinking about how you should be doing better. Because having a productive day is already good enough.
Yesterday, I wondered whether I was actually a good therapist or not. “I’m tired,” I complained. “I’m tired of my routine and I just want a break. But I can’t take a break. And hey, what if all of my hard work is not doing anyone any good?” Interns aren’t doctors yet, so we don’t have the experience to make us perfect. But I thought I wasn’t good at ALL. I was using the compliments that clients sometimes gave me after groups as FUEL because I didn’t feel good enough on my own. The compliments that my classmates gave me today made my entire day. But they shouldn’t. I’m supposed to feel good about my own skillset without others validating me.
I don’t know how to do that yet. I recently had an opportunity where I would be able to charge way more than I think I deserve at this point in my education for a session with a client. My mom, a fellow psychologist, was the one pushing me to do it. “If you don’t charge what you are worth, then don’t worry– other people still will.” It’s true. I know of a MFT (not even a doctor!) who charged $280 per session without batting an eyelash. I’m the person constantly urging people to value their own services more. So how come I can’t see my skills as good enough?
I think I will value my skills more as I gain experience. I’m documenting this on my grad school blog because I believe that good psychologists are not just born; they’re made. Eventually, (okay, maybe with enough external validation, even though I shouldn’t rely on that), I will come to believe that I have a lot to give.
In the meantime, here are the things I’m looking forward to this week:
1. Going home after group therapy tomorrow to do my individual session on Zoom. And planning practicum for next year (some child assessment sites already caught my eye).
2. Sunday: going on a picnic with my friend Liz and catching up. Also Sunday: a Halloween party where I am going to wear my first! couples costume! (clearly, I have enough excitement for both members of the couple 😂). I will be a cheerleader. My boyfriend will be a basketball player.
3. Best of all: the weekend of November 5th, I am going on a little trip. I’ve had to actively resist trying to plan every detail (I like to savor good things as much as possible, but sometimes the people I go on vacation with prefer spontaneity).
4. Saturday, walking distance from my house: my favorite kickbox cardio class.
I had to stop myself from making that list WAY longer. I guess there’s a lot to anticipate, which is never a bad thing. Thanks for reading, and catch you later ❤