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We are Our Product and we take things personally

Dear therapists,

We are our product and we take things personally.

When I look at this sentence now, my response is “well, duh!”

But several years ago, when my family was dealing with the crisis of my dad being diagnosed with dementia, one of the resources we used was an attorney to help understand the legalities of protecting my dad in various regards.

Now this is what was so profound…

The attorney stated that she is her product. We are paying for her knowledge and experience to guide us.

Let me say that again in a different way dear therapist,

YOU are your product. Clients are paying YOU for your knowledge and experience.

If this is a new concept to you, please pause a minute and let it sink in.

YOU are your product. Clients are paying YOU for your knowledge and experience.

You see, unlike other types of providers, we can’t rely on bloodwork, CT scans, etc. to treat our clients. We need to pull from our years of schooling, supervision, peer consultation and experience to provide the right assessments and treatment to clients.

Now let’s up the ante a little bit.

We take things personally.

That’s right. When a client terminates unexpectedly, we have a no show, we have trouble filling our caseload, or we get difficult feedback from a client or colleague about our product (us!), WE take it personally.

For each of us, the things that activate shame, guilt and imposter syndrome, to name a few, are different. But the feelings we experience are pretty similar for most of us in our field.

I was recently at a networking event with other therapists and we were discussing imposter syndrome. I casually threw out the remark…”You know you need support from peers when you are sitting with a client and find yourself thinking that they could really benefit from therapy. And then you realize, they are in therapy…with you!”

It was amazing to see the head nods and smiles as this thought resonated with my peers.

Some of them may have even been allowing themselves to acknowledge this for the very first time (thanks shame button).

If you believe you are alone in any of these feelings, I can assure you you’re not.

Spending time with peers, and in supportive peer consultation groups, is a game changer in understanding how we bring our humanity to our work.

  • We NEED to hear other therapists talk about these issues.
  • We NEED to have colleagues not only normalize these experiences but also provide support so we can move beyond them.
  • WE NEED to put our product’s needs and reactions into the equation when we show up at work. (Hint, hint…remember I’m talking about you as your product.)

What are some ways you are struggling with the way your work impacts you?

What are you doing about it?