What do therapists do to nourish their creativity - and why?
If you regularly see a therapist (or counsellor), at some time or other you might worry, perhaps, if you’re somehow “too much” for her (or him). You may become concerned that your feelings could be too distressing for her to deal with. Or you might fear that in fact, she somehow needs you to look after her. Maybe you even suspect that your therapist’s life is so dull or empty that she might somehow need you to keep her enlivened and entertained.
Those fears and concerns could be your legitimate response to something real you are picking up from your therapist. But the chances are, it’s actually more about you, and the assumptions you tend to make about people you are attached to.
Therapists are used to their clients having all sorts of fears and thoughts about them. And if you can discuss all of this fully and frankly with your therapist, your therapy is likely to be much more effective. Your therapist won’t think you’re bad, or weird to think like this; instead she will help the two of you to think together with curiosity and interest about how your fears or assumptions may have got started.
So how does your therapist make sure she is attending to her own needs appropriately, so that she won’t need to lean on you, or require you to be a certain way for her own benefit?
When I was training, we were taught the importance of self-care. It’s a bit like they say on airlines: “fix your own oxygen mask first before you help anyone else with theirs”.
Your therapist has a duty to take good care of herself, so that she’ll have plenty of thoughtful care to devote to you in turn.
One way she might do this is by keeping in touch with her creative self. I recently contacted therapists around the world and asked them: ‘What do you do to nourish your creativity?’.
Their answers ranged from drawing, painting, writing and crafting, through to nature walks, and meditation. Several therapists described how they carve out quite small chunks of time each day - sometimes only 10 minutes or so - to get absorbed in a creative activity; and how deeply refreshing they find this. Some felt it was important to ‘practise what they preach’: if they recommend self-care strategies (such as drawing mandalas) to clients, they also use those themselves when they need to. Many therapists discussed how inspired they get by visiting exhibitions, theatre, and dance events. Attending classes and workshops in drawing, painting, or craft techniques was another favourite way to keep connected with personal creativity.
One counsellor from Texas, Amy Sugeno, loves to write songs and sing them along to her guitar. She feels this helps her express and process the heartbreak and the beauty of what she hears and experiences as a therapist. Amy’s songs reflect her feeling of humble gratitude for her work: “We therapists are so lucky to get rare glimpses into the most poignant, real, and sacred aspects of humanity” she says.
For many therapists, their creativity feels an integral part of who they are. They know how much they are nourished by connecting with their deepest creative self, and how this helps to ‘fill their cup’ so that they then have more to offer to others.
So go ahead: the next time you realise you’re afraid you are “too much”, or “not enough” for your therapist, talk to her about your fears and imaginings about her. The chances are, she’s much stronger than you think — she looks after herself in many ways, and that probably includes nurturing her own creativity. As a result, you don’t have to look after her, or ‘protect her’ from who you are; and in your sessions you can receive the care and attention you need in order to heal and grow.