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Do the work so you know what it looks like

“You look miserable.” Dr. Blackstock smiles at me as I walk into his afternoon class.

I think I may have glared at him.  And he kept on smiling cheerfully and looking at me with his trademark “I accept you unconditionally” look.

You get a lot of that at MSP.  The professors here go beyond the usual “I want you to learn” patter that is typical of grad programs and take it one step further – “I want you to grow.  And I accept your process.”

When I started my MA at MSP, I was looking mainly for a career change.  Learn some new skills, maybe meet some nice people.  What happened instead was a subtle but definite shift in my whole way of being, the way I viewed myself as a person, and the manner in which I interacted with nearly every person in my life…just for good measure.

Completing a MA at MSP is difficult and not just because of the amount of reading or the coursework.  You are given the opportunity to grow as a person – to pull apart whatever heavy doors of protection that you’ve been carrying around and be vulnerable to the input of others.

Isn’t that what we hope our clients will do?  Don’t we ask our clients to develop enough trust that they can share of themselves, hold open in their hands their most terrifying secrets or fears or beliefs for us to see?

Every time that I was in that position at MSP – talking during group process, sharing of myself during a presentation – when I looked up in terror (or through tears) to the group of my fellow students or the professor, guess what I saw.

Warm smiles.  Nodding heads, tilted to one side in concentration.  Tears.

It’s a cliché that a therapist can only take a client as far as she has gone.  There is some debate about this among therapists I know, but I think in general it’s true.  It would be like listening to a description of a forest if you had never seen a tree.

And how can we as therapists expect our clients to do this, if we haven’t been able to do it ourselves?

This process of growth is hard – and by hard I mean it doesn’t feel good all of the time.  There were plenty of days that I experienced emotional turmoil (Why did I say that?  Quit talking about yourself!) and couldn’t bring my game face.

And that was okay.  I found that it was okay to be seen.

This experience of being accepted, taught me to be accepting.  And in learning how to be with others, I learned how to be with myself.

Cynthia Ransley, MA, LLPCynthia Ransley is Social Media Copywriter for MSP.