Ashley Peterson, LPC
Gratitude in Goodbye
As a therapist when you begin your journey as a resident therapist, you know that you want to help people and you are full of excitement and fresh knowledge! After 4 years of undergrad, 2-3 years of CACREP graduate program (including practicums and internships), you arrive at your last step which is gaining 3,200 hours of supervision from a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). I started my journey in 2005 and I would’ve never guessed that it would take me here, nor fathomed the impact. I have worked with somewhere around 150 clients and I cherish all of the relationships I’ve made. It’s a complicated relationship when your work is to get someone to a place where they no longer need you. Ya’ll know I really struggle with keeping up with these blog posts, feeling like I need passion for the subject to really get me going! I knew I wanted to write a blog post to sort of capture my year, but I just wasn’t sure what to write about or what I wanted to say. Then I had a “termination” session with one of my very first clients! Back when I was fresh out of grad school (maybe 2015) and would have literally paid someone to let me work for their practice!! I cried very real tears of joy when I was offered the position of resident therapist! My first day I was so nervous, I didn’t have “Therapist” clothes.. my best dress shoes at the time were a pair of pumps that I got from Macy’s with a gift card that I had been holding onto for a special occasion, seriously worn boat shoes and distressed Uggs lol! I didn’t have dress pants, so I often wore jeans to work, sometimes ripped jeans because it was the style and I was very much broke, so I made it work. At that particular practice clients called in for appointments and they were matched with different resident therapists. I felt intense amounts of “ imposter syndrome” and just didn’t want to mess anyone up. I knew I wanted to be a therapist, but I didn’t FEEL like a therapist yet. Kinda like I was showing up to work wearing someone else’s name tag but too afraid to speak up about it. My schedule was quickly packed with kids, individuals and couples.. a dream to a newbie! It’s like walking into your favorite restaurant and ordering everything off the menu! It was so crazy that these people trusted me to help them with their lives. I left that day and made this long post on Instagram capturing my mood and feelings from that first day, what a freaking rush! While working at this practice I met a client who was the same age as me and believed in me before I believed in me. Trusting me week after week to “help” via therapy. Living in the DMV area in your mid 20s -we frequented similar places and concert venues, even shared a love for DMX. Everytime that a client shows up after an initial session (esp in the beginning of your career) they don’t know it but they are literally helping you build your confidence in yourself and your skills. Every week I’d think wow, okay. We would make progress and meet goals and I still was in awe of the entire thing! One day we had a session scheduled and I had lost the keys to the office and the therapist that was working the shift prior forgot to leave the door unlocked. So, when this client shows up I’m standing there locked out in an empty building suite feeling super stupid and unprepared, apologizing and offering to reschedule. Then I had the “great” idea/option of us just sitting in the empty hallway and talking there for our time, to which my client agreed. I’m so embarrassed, like soooo embarrassed as we literally slid down the walls to sit on the floor and begin our session. Present day, I talk a lot about grace with my clients. The grace that was shown to me in that moment offered me the opportunity to not sit in embarrassment but allowed me to offer myself some self compassion and not carry that disappointment with me. Starting out you feel so exposed, you are trying your best and sometimes you don’t always get a follow up session to really shine and show up the way you want to and you learn to deal and cope. Fast forward, I stayed at the practice for almost a year before I decided to leave to better focus on studying for my licensing board exam to become a LPC. When I left I told all my clients that I would return to therapy again at some point, but I didn’t know when or where but said keep in touch (expecting nothing). I was on LinkedIn and received a message asking if I was working anywhere yet and I said no but would share when I was. After passing the exam, I accepted a job at a practice in DC and just like that I was back in business, fully licensed with better shoes! We resumed sessions and I was so excited to begin working together again and catch up on all the things. I later left that practice after about a year or so and opened up my own practice and we continued our work. We worked hard, reached goals, hit milestones and both experienced so much change and transformation along the way. Then we began working towards termination because the work was done. Mission complete! I knew this day was coming and I had even jotted down some parting words I wanted to share but all I could think was how proud I was of this person. How hard they fought for their mental health, the progress they made, the tools they applied and just the consistency in courage of always showing up even when it was hard. It all kind of hit me at the end of the session when they said they were proud of me too! Sometimes as a therapist you forget that your clients are silently watching your growth as you chart theirs. All the feels! The last two years working during this pandemic have been hard, really really hard. When we are surviving we don’t take the time to notice when we shift gears into thriving. I watched one of my first clients build confidence over the years without actively realizing they played a role in building mine.
Over the course of the pandemic I’ve had clients that have moved out of state, expanded their families, taken a new jobs, curated a great relationship with her mental health, started and/or finished school, improve communication skills, move in with their partners, end relationships with partners and just overall working their asses of to show up for themselves every damn day! So this year I think what I’ve been most grateful for is the journey. I’m forever grateful for this job, my career- the journeys, memories and full circle moments. Ending the year with so much gratitude and appreciation for all my clients old and new. I’m so grateful to be a part of your journeys and for you to be a part of mine.
Happy New Year!
Ashley Peterson Vincent, LPC