Why do you do this work?

I attended a burn last weekend and as usual, it was a transformative experience. I finally had some time to relax, reflect, and even write a poem – something I haven’t done in years. I’ve felt this one pulsing inside of me for a few months now, and it was so cathartic to get it written down. I even got to read it to a few friends and a partner, sitting by a beautiful river in a sunny Tennessee Valley.

The question that clients ask me most in our first session together is something along the lines of: why are you doing this work?  Here is the most vulnerable and detailed response to that question that I have been able to put into words so far. This does not answer why I chose to become a counselor, because I had no idea before I started just how powerful and transformative my experiences would be. So this not why I started grad school to become a counselor; this is why I continue to do this work every day, why I feel it is my calling, and why I look forward to a lifetime of powerful emotional connection in my professional life.

“To Be Seen”

I am honored
when you walk through the door
for the first time,
a stranger,
and you open yourself up –
your trust allows you to be vulnerable to me.

And so,
we begin our flow.

I am honored to be the first person who uses your correct pronouns,
to be in the room when
the waves of relief,
grief,
release,
and recognition wash over you,
and you validate yourself for the first time.

What a privilege:

To be in the room when you decide to be
kinder to yourself,
when you decide that
you’re worth everything
that your life has to offer.

What an honor:

To bear witness to
the first time you let yourself cry in 30 years,
and to watch you draw the
connections
between the scars that line your arms
and the scars that hide in your soul.

What a privilege:

To sit with you when you break into pieces
describing the grisly scene of their suicide –
details you haven’t been able to speak out loud,
because you haven’t wanted to admit that they’re gone,
it’s real,
and it’s forever.

I get to be there when you discover the hardest and most liberating truths
about yourself,
your humanity,
and the life that you have lived.
I get to hold your head above the water
while you struggle desperately not to drown
under the
crashing,
relentless waves
of emotional and psychological abuse.

You can’t walk to the shore
until you’re 18,
but I can bring you a life vest,
and float with you,
our fingers wrinkling from the water,
holding you until you can stand
on your feet
in the deep end.

There is nothing more powerful than
your intention,
motivation,
determination,
and need.

You allow me to reach inside you,
to depths you didn’t know were there,
and shine a light on the beautiful
treasures within;
together, we rediscover your magic.

I get to witness this journey,
this discovery,
this epiphany,
this awakening
from a nightmare in which
you didn’t realize your own strength.

I get to watch you become consistent on the outside
with what has always been alive on the inside,
to reclaim an authenticity
that was stolen from you
at birth.

I couldn’t be more honored,
I couldn’t be more privileged,
to bear witness as you become
present,
congruent,
and aware
that you’ve had this power all along –
you just needed to be seen.

And I see you.


I painted this and made laminated copies to gift at To the Moon. I am so amazed at how much burns can bring out the creative side of me. It was amazing seeing people’s faces light up as I handed them these gifts. I hope some part of this post makes you smile 🙂

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