Shida left her first session of therapy with a feeling of exhilaration. All nervousness went after Dr. Saidia had put her at ease.
She looked forward to sharing more with the therapist about her continuing failing grades due to the terrible break up with her boyfriend. She had been with Chalo for almost three years now, since their first year in university! Now in their senior year, and about to graduate, their nickname, ‘the Freshmen to Finishers couple’ didn’t apply anymore. They hadn’t gone deep into this, but Dr. Saidia said they would next time after Shida felt more comfortable with therapy.
What was amazing for Shida was how the session was relaxed and soothing. She had expected a lot of chiding and being told what to do. Part of her nervousness was that she had pictured the therapist as a commando with powers to shame and blame her for the breakup. In particular, she feared that she would be told that she was stupid for hanging on to the relationship even though the relationship had made her sick.
Instead, Dr. Saidia, who’s age seemed close to that of Shida’s mother, seemed capable of understanding her issue. Shida felt reassured because the doctor’s summary of their discussion confirmed that she had understood the problem as Shida had narrated it. She really felt ‘’felt”.
Immediately after the session was over, Shida switched on her phone and ten texts flowed in. Celina, her best friend, obviously eager to hear what had transpired in therapy, bombarded her. “HOW WAS IT?” popped up on her screen, no less than five times!
“Chill,” Shida replied.
“You will not believe this,” she went on, with the shocked and surprised emojis punctuating her replies.
“Therapy is am-aizzzzzzing!”
She told her friend the reasons why, “The therapist does not sit behind a desk asking you questions in a detached manner. You sit on comfortable sofas, somewhat facing each other. Also, the therapist gives you eye contact without invading you. Actually, her eyes are quite kind and do welcome you to share in a genuine way.”
“The therapy room isn’t what we thought girlfriend”, she gushed.
‘’First of all, the walls have this warm colour. And the room is decorated so nicely!! It doesn’t look like a ward for mad people…lol!” she added.
Clearly, Celina was hooked as she was typing back instantaneously asking, “What did she say about Chalo?!!!” With many emojis to boot.
Impatiently, Saidia replied, “Ai, relax! That was just the first session! She said we will talk more about it later. The first session is mainly to understand therapy. But I felt relieved because she didn’t judge me…even when I mentioned the abortion! I was so scared, especially because she looks like a mathe (a mother).”
“Yes, I’ve heard that counsellors are unshockable, so maybe that’s why she took it all in,” Celina replied with what seemed to be a dry tone. “But can she “catch” issues of young people? Can she really understand us?” she asked sceptically.
“I think so. I think she did because she said she is trained to handle issues from all age groups. She also handles children so you should also bring your small sister!” Shida rapidly replied.
“Eish, she impressed you that much?” Celina, still sceptical, shot back.
“For me, I felt like she knew what she was doing. She explained therapy in a way which I understood. I learnt that I also have the right to terminate therapy when I want. You cannot be forced to continue.’’ Shida went on to explain.
“LOL! So now you even have “human rights?” Celina shot back with a laughing emoji.
“It is serious,” Shida typed back. “We actually do have rights as clients. I have the right to ask about her qualifications. Also, I can ask to be referred to another counsellor if I want. I can also terminate therapy if I want. I know my rights giiiiirl!”
I concur with Dr. Saidia. Clients also have the right to be treated with dignity and respect without regard to race, colour, religion, national origin, gender, age, sexual orientation, or disability. Therapists are trained to treat all people respectfully, with no preconceived opinions, and to regard them in a positive light, always.
Usually, I make it a point for my clients to understand this because it is a very special component that is unique to therapy. Help-seeking relationships tend to have a power differential where the help-seeker looks up to the helper as an authority and a power to be deferred to and revered. The helper may wield a lot of power on the help-seeker, unconsciously requiring deference.
The therapeutic relationship defers in that the client is given a space where they feel wanted, secure and not judged. The respect and deference displayed by the therapist are genuine, with the therapist only wanting to communicate to the client, “This is your time and space. Be free to share yourself as much as you can so that I can be able to help you. You are free here and you will not be judged. I am here for you and will listen to you with all of myself. Together we will walk the road leading to your health, with your best interests at heart”.
And that is the message Shida went home with that day. She also felt accepted unconditionally, welcomed, wanted and worthy. A great assurance considering her emotional state after the toxic relationship with Chalo and abortion.
Photo credit: Pinterest.