I’ve been asked why I’d chose now, where I’ve just entered the field, to write a book about therapy. My short answer is simple: Why not now? I love writing and I love therapy. Why put it off?
The long answer(s) follows:
I’ve been writing since before I had braces. Writing isn’t new to me. My first degree was in journalism and I’ve written for more newspapers and magazines than I can count. I’ve been involved in writing groups and have been writing poetry since 2003.
What is new is the therapy. I was laid off from my job as a marketing director at a mental health agency in 2010. A lifelong learner, I wanted to go back to school to get my master’s degree. I debated law and psychology – both fields I’ve been interested in for a long time. I decided to go with psychology because I wanted to help people. I was inspired by the work I'd seen clinicians do at the mental health agency. I was tired of writing pamphlets about suicide prevention and wanted to do something more to help people who were hurting. I felt like there was only so much a person could do with a pen.
Now, with a degree in marriage and family therapy, I work as a clinician. I also work as a child advocate. I spend several days a week in court (there's the law part of my interests) speaking as the voice for young children who cannot articulate their wishes or what’s best for them. I love the work I do and am very passionate about the families I serve. When I am with them, they have my full attention.
With that said, writing is therapeutic to me. In therapy school, we learned about the importance of self-care. If therapists didn’t have other interests, we’d all spend our time sitting around thinking about our clients problems and/or what a cold, cruel place the world can be. When I first started working with abused kids, I wasn’t able to sleep at night. I’d take on their troubles and have nightmares. To cope with that, I decided to pull out my dusty journals and write. It helped.
One day, I had a client tell me that I couldn’t possibly understand her problems because I was a therapist. She assumed this meant that I had all the answers and that my life and relationships were perfect. I explained to her that this was far from true and that it’s nearly impossible to do therapy on yourself. It’s definitely impossible to do it on your family! While my education often helps me to figure out why people in my life do the things they do, it certainly doesn’t have much more control (or sense) than that.
So, as I was writing in my journal, I decided it might be fun to write about a therapist and her (sometimes messy) life. That therapist would sit through sessions with clients who expected her to have the answers and do the best she could. But at the end of the day? She’d still have her own problems and issues to address. She’d find a way to juggle her clients and their problems with her own. (“It has to be doable!” I’d tell myself). I wanted to write about a therapist who found the balance I so desperately crave for myself in my own work and writing hobby. I also wanted to put the message out that that we therapists learn a lot from our clients too! Everyone has something to teach.
Katherine came about as a way to understand myself and how to balance things. But later, she evolved. She is now a way for people not in the field to understand that therapists and psychologists are people too. Writing this book has not caused me to lose focus of my work. Instead, it’s helped me in my work. By taking time out to do something that I love – writing – I’m a better therapist for it. By helping Katherine find balance, I’m teaching myself to find balance too.
“Crazy Like Me” is not a clinical text book. It’s fiction. The characters aren’t real. Katherine isn’t me. But the book is very much a realistic picture of what it’s like to be a new therapist – Katherine is newly licensed herself – and the struggles many of us face to balance our lives and work.
I don’t claim to know everything there is to know about psychology or therapy, or writing for that matter. I don’t think anyone could claim that. The human mind and human experiences are very complicated things. Each person walks their own journey, alone, through this life. We are fortunate enough to bump into quirky, inspiring, and not-so-great people along the way. They all have something to teach us and us them. For me? Those people now include both Katherine and the clients in “Crazy Like Me.”
When the content editing phase of this publishing process is complete, things will slow down for me. Line editing, I hear, is much easier than big rewrites. (Please let this be true!) I’m fortunate enough to have support as I go through this process of balancing what feeds my soul and helping others to be their best selves. Right now, it’s a pretty ugly juggling act. But I have faith that eventually I’ll have the grace of a ballerina - even with this.
I hope that answers your question…