I PAY YOU TO CARE
Yes, it’s true. I am paid to do what I do. I am paid to listen and to facilitate a process and to respond and to help.
“You have to care, I pay you to care."
Aside from the fact that this isn’t exactly true.
In what other profession does being paid undercut the possibility of caring? Teachers, doctors, community organizers… there is an endless list of people who are paid to do things that they care about. To care for people.
But as therapists our true care is somehow questioned. Because our type of care gets really close to the bone.
It’s intimate. We don’t merely teach or treat but we get close. Emotionally close.
And anytime you get really close to someone - close to something they don’t want to see, or closer than they want to get - they often throw your care out with some degree of violence such as, "you are paid to care!” It is part of the job.
It’s also one of the few professions where people seldom expect to be charged a cancellation fee.
And this is confusing on the other side of the chair, too.
Most of us therapists are familiar with the feelings of waiving fees, relaxing time constraints, being generally and openly supportive.
This is human. And also often a mistake.
It makes me think of two things.
First, a teacher of mine who often said, “if we think we can do a better job parenting our clients than their parents did we are sorely mistaken."
Second, what I said to a therapist of mine who was being incredibly supportive during a difficult time, “I need a mother right now. But you can’t be that. So I need you to be my therapist."
Often I don’t know what to make of my job. What is it exactly? A job? A profession? A calling? A practice? A redirection of my maternal energy? A masochistic pursuit? All of these things at the exact same time?
As my dear colleague Sally Denham-Vaughan said, "Personally I think that providing a professional service and being paid is the frame within which we generally provide the work. To claim otherwise, or to ignore this when it is the case, seems disingenuous to me.”
We get so close to each other. We look at the crevices in you and in me. And it is work. Worth a great deal to both of us.