It's taken a lot of work opening more appointments for therapy. I've struggled with the idea of retiring and spending more time taking care of me. But then I get the phone call, "Do you have any openings? "I need help." Or "I'm having panic attacks."
Or "I can't get rid of my OCD. It's breaking up my marriage."
I hang up the phone and look around my office and think..."I love spending time here. I want to help." Finding balance is also important.
It's a three-legged stool that won't stand when one leg is missing. "Write more books!" I tell myself. "That's working too."
While that's true, writing is really a passion of mine, I just read about a recent study from Harvard that found the "key" to happiness.
The surprising finding is that our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health,” said Robert Waldinger, director of the study, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “Taking care of your body is important, but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care too. That, I think, is the revelation."
These findings made a great impression on me and sealed my decision to spend a more time in the office.
What is psychotherapy when you cut through all the cognitive reframing, behavioral strategies, and lifestyle changes? Therapy is all about RELATIONSHIPS. I can prescribe all the right medications, all the strategies, but if I don't have a solid, caring relationship, my patient will never connect with my recommendations. It's just so much more blah, blah, blah.
Yes, sometimes I commit the cardinal sin of going overtime when something important comes up at the end of session. But, I've always had that problem, even when I was in the Air Force. I'd make up for it during my admin. time or I'd book fewer patients in the day because my patients were deploying 5-6 times and it felt too unnatural to say, "Time's up" in the middle of a breakthrough about the meaning of an important loss. It's not something I've ever been proud of, lack of discipline and such. But now that I think about it, maybe spending that extra little bit of time was helping me too. All because of the RELATIONSHIP.
To those callers I haven't work with, it may seem like I was being uncaring. But, I'm more convinced than ever that if I can't connect with your needs within the context of our relationship, then taking you on as a patient is really the worst version of being uncaring. Connecting through the relationship means caring and commitment. Commitment of time, commitment of resources, commitment to sharing the pain on the way to discovery/recovery.
I'm not here for the money, because we know that past a certain income, money does nothing for happiness. In fact, this same Harvard study in the Gazette used an example of a lawyer who was making tons of money and who felt unhappy as hell.
Really what I'm doing here is pushing a bit harder instead of retiring - building a few more relationships. Opening that straighter path to happiness. So let's see if you're right you Harvard researchers, if you're not, there's a certain Calla Lilies painting that's coming home with me sometime next year.
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Author: Dr. Elaine Foster
Live the Life, Lose the Fear