I had a really great conversation with my therapist about my journey thus far. When I came to her I was the self-loathingest thing this side of the Mississippi and not even vaguely, remotely, slightly comfortable with my sexuality or the exploration of its remote existence. I felt small and scared and wholly unable to cope with life and all its complications.
Fast forward to the end of our time together- roughly four years later- and I am light years ahead of my former self. Self-acceptance and hope abounds in this human vessel of mine and my heart is full to the brim with possibility.
As we talked about sed journey, I began to convey to her the conditions that were cultivated within our therapeutic relationship that made the process so powerful. And as I thought about them, I realized that any person in a helping profession or even a friend who might run into an lgbt person on their arduous journey to self-acceptance could benefit from knowing those key characteristics of a supportive relationship. I am not claiming expertise, but I do know what worked awesomely for me.
She was safe. As far as therapists go- this should be a no-brainer. But I have had a few other counselors/therapists that had a tenuous grasp on this concept. I walked into the room with her and I could tangibly feel a sense of safe space. And coming to session from a campus environment that felt hostile and oppressive when it came to the topic of “the gays”- I desperately needed 45 minutes to an hour where I could just come and be in that sacrosanct place.
She didn’t try to convince me to choose a certain path. And this has got to be the hardest one on her part. She’s a brilliant therapist with training upon training, life experiences and just profound amounts of intelligence. But I never felt an inch of pressure to go in the direction that she felt would have been best from a personal perspective. From day one it was- this is your journey and how you walk it is the best way to do it. As long as I was being authentic, as long as I was doing the necessary work- I was on the right path. My good-meaning friends had opinions and suggestions and I knew the way they wanted me to go with my journey. And don’t get me wrong- I needed those friends and their perspectives. But when it came to making a personal choice on the topic of my sexuality- the most impacting relationship I had was the one where there were zero expectations for the decision I would/should make.
She was my biggest advocate/ally from day one. She encouraged me. She never got frustrated even when I was being stubborn and a little bit of an asshole. She helped me to pull apart and untangle the pieces that were giving me the most grief. She listened carefully and was sensitive to how I was feeling. I did the work, but she was a consistent source of unconditional positive regard,empathy and genuineness (gosh, I love Carl Rogers). She didn’t give up on me. And when I did choose to accept that I was a lesbian, she was quick to provide me with resources (articles, books, documentaries, other people like me, etc).
She walked alongside me. For four years, she listened, she offered objective input, she challenged and supported, celebrated small victories and mourned great losses. In summation, she journeyed with me through the thick of it and without hesitation.
While I am going to miss working with her, I know the best thing she gave me was the tools to find a sense of empowerment to live my life, make my own decisions, move forward without hesitation.
Now that’s some damn good therapy.