Wise Counsel(ing)

On Saturday, I had my first counseling session with the future Dr. T. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to write about it, then I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say about it. Through days of processing, I’ve finally come to the conclusion that I want to share some things and keep some things to myself. The counseling session was not the first “session” I’ve had with FDT. I interviewed her for my blog as a mental health counselor for her professional opinions about issues in relationships/marriages, and Mr. P. and I also had an impromptu session with her at a church event once, but that’s a long story. This particular time I was all by myself.

Her waiting room had a jazz station playing (not smooth jazz, but a more “classical” jazz that sounded like the PBS special or a college affiliated station) which drowned out the session that she was in before my arrival. Once I entered her office, I took a swift look around and took in the not-quite-what-I-was-expecting décor. For one thing, I never thought about a therapist having family photos on her bookshelf, which was directly across from the couch I was to sit on. She had a laptop open next to her, the purpose of which I can only guess was to show her schedule and record the session. The couch itself was not a leather chaise lounge on which to lie down and talk about your relationship with your mother, but a regular brown microfiber or suede couch, firm yet comfy. The office seemed more like I was in someone’s living room to have a conversation than in a therapist’s office getting my head shrunk (which is probably the point).

The session itself was eye opening. There were three things that really stood out to me that she mentioned, two of which I wanted to share with you.

I’ve spoken about my views on love here, in which I stated that we understand certain things about love when it relates to our family and friends but seem to get it confused when we talk about romantic love. Therefore, I found it amazing that I seemed to have the same issue when it came to defining what a healthy relationship would look like to me. She asked me who I thought I had the best relationship with, then had me come up with what I thought was so great about that relationship. From what I said, she came up with my criteria for a healthy relationship, which included: good communication, respect, acceptance, the ability to empathize, etc. I never said any of these words in all of my examples, but she was able to pull out the core ideas behind what I said to formulate my characteristics of a healthy relationship. I think this is a great exercise for those who may not know what they want their relationship to look like, or want to evaluate if their relationship is a healthy one for them.

The second thing she did was to suggest that couples have a safe word or gesture, meant to signal that a topic of discussion is getting to the point where it should be halted. I actually read about this in practice a few days later in this blog, in which the couple uses the word Jesus in the same way. When she said it, though, my first thought was of Stephen King’s It, in which the other characters say “Beep Beep, Ritchie” when their friend has taken a joke too far. While I have no idea what our safe word or gesture would be, I think it might be a good idea, even if you don’t have many occasions on which to use it.

FDT also gave me a suggestion of a book for us to read, which I will share in a later post, and she told me to start journaling. Hello! I journal all. The. Time. I think that journaling is not only therapeutic, but it helps you really get back into that space once you’re not there anymore, something that has been integral in working on my memoir about my year off from school.

Overall, I think the biggest benefit to the session was just the chance to finally say some things, to get all of that disordered junk out of my head and have someone help me arrange the pieces into a more coherent puzzle.

That’s how my session with FDT went. Now it’s your turn: Have you ever seen a therapist? Did it help you? What do you think are the characteristics of a healthy relationship? What is your safe word/guesture or what would your safe word or gesture be? Do you journal?

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