If you asked me what different parts of the boat are called, or how to tie different sailor’s knots, you’d get a blank stare in return. I have been sailing once or twice and loved it. The depth and reflective properties of water have always been a strong pull for me.
When I first started working in private practice, my connection to water continued. The visual I formed of how sessions progress started off like deep sea diving. There wasn’t much to this analogy for me. I vaguely pictured that the client and I would go deeper and deeper with every session. In this visual, the deeper we went the darker things kept getting.
One of the things I love about being a therapist is how much clients teach me. Very quickly my clients taught me that the analogy of deep sea diving did not accurately fit how I was witnessing clients move through therapy. Movement was taking place, just not how I had anticipated.
Now, I picture therapy more like sailing. Each session holds an opportunity with many different variables: sky, water, wind, and weather. They can all prove to be different depending on the day. Week to week, life throws a little bit of the unexpected at us and clients are in a slightly different place each session.
Just because someone shows up to sail doesn’t mean they might not be afraid of the water, or that their boat might not have a few holes in it. The truth is, many people walk into therapy with many different fears or reservations. And that’s ok.
Regardless of the weather, or what kind of boat the client has, or if the client is afraid of sailing, we both show up because there is just something healing about being together by the water.
Being a therapist is teaching me every day to be open to whatever kind of day unfolds. Some days are sunny and smooth, with exciting trips out onto the water and the client and I feel the tired satisfaction of energy well spent. We can even get a pretty good string of successful sailing days.
Other days, I stay in the harbor with the client, and we sit on the doc talking about what the fears are about sailing or the terrible storms that have destroyed their boat. There is often much in their past that leaves them feeling unable to sail.
I’ve come to really love those days. The days on the dock aren’t any less valuable, because while sailing is great, being with people near the water is really my favorite. What I hope for my clients is water that reflects their beauty back to them and draws them outward to wonder where it could take them.