An Open Letter from a Therapist to His Clients

Dear Fellow Travelers,

I’ll be the first to admit, writing a letter like this is unusual.

We’re not supposed to talk in public about what we talk about in private. You’re supposed to hide your decision to see me, as if it means you’re more damaged or more fragile than the average person. And I’m supposed to have power over you—degrees and expertise and insights I’ll unleash at just the right moment. I’m supposed to take my authority very, very seriously, and I’m supposed to protect it by telling you very little about what goes on inside of me.

Well, I call BS.

And I do so for one reason in particular: you’ve told me again and again you feel badly about weighing me down with your wounds and burdening me with your, well, burdens. So, I think you need to know this: early one morning last week, I opened my calendar and was overwhelmed with gratitude. I looked at the list of the precious people with whom I’d be spending my day, and I had only one thought in my head:

I’m the luckiest person in the world.

How many people go through every day of life—especially weekdays in the workplace—and never have any kind of authentic human connection? How many of us are hungering for just a little bit of vulnerability and honesty and reality? And yet, this is what I get to do at work, all day.

I can’t believe I get to do this.

In ten years, you have radically altered everything I believe about people. I used to think people were basically bad to the bone—selfish, vicious, devious. And it’s true, those things do exist within most of us. You’ve shown them to me. But then, together, we’ve located a deeper, truer place within you. A place where a light burns so bright it’s Beautiful, with a capital B. When I go to work, I get to be reminded there is something brilliant at the center of every human being.

I’ve been humbled by your beauty.  

I offer you something you can’t find too many other places—I observe, I remain objective, and I openly share my insights. Sometimes they are a revelation. And sometimes they are just flat out wrong. When they are, you tell me so, and you share with me your insights about who you are and how life works. To do my job well, I have to embrace uncertainty about my own ideas and I have to be open to the accuracy of yours. And it is utterly freeing.

I’ve been humbled by your wisdom.

You come in and you say things few of us dare to say out loud. For an hour a week, you fashion a place of true belonging from your vulnerability and daring and determination to become unlonely. Some weeks this is more painful than others. Some weeks it doesn’t happen at all. But then you show true courage, and you return again, to try again. When I go to work, ordinary people teach me about extraordinary bravery.

I’ve been humbled by your guts.

You refuse to sleepwalk through this life. You refuse to numb yourself to what’s going on inside of you and around you. You insist upon finding your way to a life of consciousness. Alertness. Awareness. Awakeness. The truth is, the sun has dropped on plenty of mindless Saturdays in which I was left wondering, “What is the point of all this?” but I have never been left wondering that at the end of a day at my office. You are seeking to live your lives fully alive. And I get to witness it. Join you in it.

I’ve been humbled by your passion.

We live in a world in which, it seems, the flags are always flying at half mast. There is so much to grieve. Most work, unfortunately, has become a distraction from our grief. But when I go to work, I join those of you who have decided grieving is an essential part of being alive. You cycle through your denial about what hurts, your anger at those who’ve hurt you, your disappointment about what could have been, and you find your way to peace about all the sad and sacred pain of being human. You’ve taught me how to open up to all of it.

I’ve been humbled by your tenacious tears. 

You see, when I go to work this week, I won’t be the only healer in the room—I have a bunch of healers listed by name in my calendar. Because you all teach me the tender truth about what it means to be human, and then I pass that truth along. In this way, actually, you’re all healing each other. I’m just the conduit.

I can’t believe I get to do this. But I do.

We do.

With gratitude,

Kelly