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Dialectics: Work and Rest

By Dr. Patty Williams on March 3, 2019

BISN founder and president Dr. Patty Williams is a trauma therapist who specializes in EMDR, ND-Affirmative DBT, and IFS modalities. Through Bright Insight Support Network, she works to counsel, coach, and advocate for gifted, twice-exceptional, and neurodivergent persons, along with other marginalized populations.

Dialectics: Work and Rest

Dialectics. Who knew I was such a dialectic therapist? DBT… I may be a DBT therapist too… but I am dialectic at the very least. I guess I always have been. I like to see both (all) sides and see value in all perspectives. This is what it means to be multiculturally competent too, if you ask me. It just makes sense.

When I was in my first master’s residency, a brilliant professor and therapist whom I respect greatly said: “Never work harder than your client.” This suggestion helped me as I pushed through my practicum and internship, and probably since then as well.

However, I cannot say that the “never” works for me any longer. Extremes such as “never” or “always” are not my preference anyway, as they can be too easily argued, but it is not for this reason that my thoughts about this suggestion have changed.

It is rather the fact that sometimes I do work harder than my clients, and I am OK with this.

I’ll explain.

When clients come to therapy, they need to be willing to work. If they want someone to fix their problems for them, I am not the right person for the job. And I guarantee you, they cannot pay me enough money to make this happen anyway.

No- my clients need to work to see change.

That said, my clients also do not come to me because life is easy. If life were easy then why come to a therapist, right? Life is not easy. Not for me, not for them- and sometimes it is nearly too hard.

When a client comes to me unwilling or unable to work harder than me, that is not permission for me to give up on them. Sometimes, they need someone in their life who will work hard for them so they can work easy, if only for a moment.

A Slippery Slope… yeah.

If I am “always” working harder than my client, that would be a problem and would burn me out. Sure. But sometimes I am willing and will work harder than my clients so they can find rest in my office.

If you come to me, I will do my best to hold space for you. I will fight for you when you can’t fight for yourself. It will not be a permanent arrangement, but you will get what you need at that moment.

So work harder than me. Or not. That matters less to me than finding a balance that works for both of us and gets you closer to living your best life, while I continue to live mine.

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