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(Editor’s Note: My husband, Jeremiah, offered to guest post for me about a recent eye-opening experience, which dovetails nicely with yesterday’s post on being seen. Enjoy!)

I have one of the best jobs in the world. Because I’m a family therapist, people invite me into their homes to dream with them, listen to them, help empower them to change their lives. I witness forgiveness, empathy and healing with couples of all ages and situations. I identify the strengths of teenage guys and participate in their passions; I have one teenage client I dance with, another who’s teaching me to draw, and another who plays basketball with me.

My job is also incredibly humbling. Why anyone would trust their secrets, pasts and traumas to a 20-something is beyond me. And I ask many things of my clients that I wouldn’t do myself.

For example, I’m working with a recovering alcoholic who decided last week to write down his guilt and fears each night, put them in a balloon, and send them heavenward. One of my new clients this week blamed her boyfriend for refusing to come to therapy; by the end of the hour, she was encountering questions like “What happens when you’re not in a relationship?” and staring down loneliness. If anyone, professional or otherwise, intruded that deeply into my life after knowing me for an hour, I’d be furious.

I joined a gym this week, and as a new client, I consulted with a fitness specialist about my health goals. We began by discussing my previous experience with gyms, then building a workout plan to motivate me to hit the gym consistently.

The specialist then asked about my diet. I admitted to eating one too many McDonalds/Wendy’s cheeseburgers recently, and made excuses for eating only two meals a day. Sometimes I see eight clients back to back with breaks only for driving, which means I skip lunch regularly, but I’ve always been insecure about eating too much because I’m afraid of becoming overweight. Not that I told the specialist that —after all, he’d only known me for 20 minutes.

The specialist then measured my body fat percentage (embarrassing) and had me do several exercises. I completed the first one, which involved staying in an upright pushup position for 90 seconds, but my core started burning about halfway through. I didn’t give up, but he wasn’t fooled, saying, “I saw you struggle with that.” Few people ever see me struggle, and even fewer get to call me out on it.

Finally, he asked about my posture: a back injury from a car wreck and sitting in a chair for eight hours a day have done no favors to my spinal column.

After learning about my physical faults, the secrets I’m unwilling to share and the emotional scars I cover up with excuses and fake smiles, he still wanted to work with me. He was honest, explaining that change wouldn’t happen overnight—in fact, I think his estimate of cutting my body fat percentage in half, losing 10 pounds and adding muscle tone in just five months of consistent healthy eating and gym usage, was a bit generous.

As I listened to him talk, I realized: This is my therapy. This is me putting myself in the other chair, letting someone listen to and take care of me for an hour each week. And it’s something I need. When my trainer asks, “What kept you from meeting your diet goals this week?” I’ll either have to avoid the question, deflect it with a simple, universal answer like “laziness,” or confront my deep insecurities. I hope to be encouraged, challenged and empowered to make my life better.

What are some traditional and non-traditional therapy experiences you’ve had? How did you overcome the initial fear of releasing your secrets and insecurities to your therapist/trainer/guide?

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