This is not about what you think it is. I’m not having an affair with anyone at work nor do I plan to. I am very happily married, thank goodness.
This is about how I, as a counselor, have come to realize I love my clients.
The first time a client told me they loved me, I didn’t know what to do. I had worked with her and her family for about 4 months, and our time together was drawing to a close. As she turned to leave for the day, she threw it casually back over her shoulder, “I love you, girl.” My heart smiled in response, and warmth bloomed in my chest. “Back at ya,” I responded clumsily as she walked out the door. I knew in that moment that I certainly did love her. And her children, and her husband, too. We had covered a lot of ground together, and they had made a lot of progress. I was granted access to their lives, and came to respect and admire all they had been through together. How could I not love them?
Other beloveds at work include the team I work with. Team Awesome is what I call them, and they are. We, too, have been through a lot together in the work we do with families. Do I love them? You bet. Do I say so? Sometimes. Not more than a handful of times in the 5 or so years we’ve been together, but occasionally the life circumstances we are going through warrant it. The death of a family member, serious life challenges, and the joyful events, too, call for a declaration.
I feel the love for my clients when we are working through their trauma; when they knock on the dark doors of their past ready to find the answers. When they bravely go where they didn’t think they could, and they find the gold within. When their face lights up with the joy of connection, the AHA moment that sets them free, or the deep breath that let’s me know they’ve got this and now they are going to be okay. When the little boy tells me that his sadness has gone from “GINORMOUS” to the pinch between a thumb and a forefinger: “It’s only two inches now.” When a little girl grins at me and says, “I am brave, aren’t I?” You bet she is. What’s not to love?
I have seen it on the face of my colleagues when they talk about how a particular client has faced their fears and won. I have seen it on the face of some amazing trainers when they are doing the trauma work with a volunteer who is about to get the gift of therapy that is going to change their life: EMDR. I have seen it in the teachers and trainers and clinicians who love their work and just can’t help but radiate their joy when things go well.
This is tough work we do. We walk with people through their darkness, and back into the light.
But this isn’t anything they talked about in counselor school: How you were going to fall in love at work. How every person will walk away with a little piece of your heart. So I will keep at it, and my heart will keep growing so there’s plenty of room left for those clients I have yet to meet.