In my 14 years of doing counseling, yesterday I did something that I have never done. I cried in a therapy session. A client Vanessa* was finally able to adopt a child. After years of struggling with infertility and then waiting for more years to adopt a child, she was finally going to be a mother, something that she had wanted for so long. And when Vanessa told me that she would be a mother soon, I cried tears of joy for her.
I surprised myself by “allowing” my tears to flow. I started my career working with victims of violent crimes, mainly incest, sexual assault, and attempted homicide. In those years I was trained not to shed tears at our clients stories. The theory was that we didn’t want our clients to feel like they had to take care of their therapists. We worried that if we cried during a session they would see us as incompetent and unable to hear the horror of their stories. And so I learned to retain my composure and show emotion and compassion but never a tear.
Fast forward many years and I have my own practice and my own family all of which has changed how I do therapy. I am much more present in my life and in my relationships and in my therapy sessions. Being able to work with clients of my choosing, clients from my community, allows me to feel a more genuine connection to them.
When Vanessa said that she would have her baby in her arms by the end of the week I felt her joy, her relief, and her gratitude. I never cried when she was in despair with her infertility or enraged with the adoption process. I held those emotions with her but they were her feelings that I was holding. When she shared her news I had my own feelings of happiness and I cried my own tears for her joy.
* Note — the client’s name and other identifying information has been changed.