“You mean a physical therapist?”
This is the question I often get when I tell people I’m a therapist. “An acupuncturist? A masseuse?” No. I am a therapist of the mind: a psychotherapist.
I’m not surprised that many people don’t picture me when they picture a therapist. Who or what do you imagine? I’ll tell you what I still, today, picture, (and what Google Images confirms if you do a search for "psychotherapist"):
An older white man with a groomed beard and a forest green sweater vest.
Freud with his self-congratulatory cigar.
A chaise lounge; a small lap dog. A dark study with leather-bound books. Solemnity. No laughter.
There are countless stereotypes around the therapist character, and typically the media represents the professional as a person sitting a safe analytical distance from a patient. These actors are often white, in their late 60’s, and use only their overly active intellectual left-brain to interpret their clients every move.
The term therapist has gone through the ringer over the years and changed many hands: psychotherapist is scary to many because it includes the word “psycho;” mental health therapist is equally intimidating because no one wants to go to someone for “mental” issues. Counselor is a far more friendly term, as it seems more like a mentor or advise-giver, but to many practitioners (myself included) it does not do justice to the education we have undergone --- counselors don’t need a degree to get to work.
So, on one hand, I plead the case for the title “psychotherapist.” A psychotherapist is an archeologist, digging for the underlying roots of countless problems – looking for the golden chests of unconscious mental processes, beliefs, and patterns that lead people to get stuck in their problems. As a psychotherapist I seek to be someone who is curious where others are critical. Instead of shaming the patient who has panic attacks, for example, I want to know where her brain has fused together particular feelings with uncontrollable anxiety.
But on the other hand, in deciding what to name my practice, my marketing mind got all opinionated. I want my practice to be approachable to young people, people like me. Sure, fellow professionals may not hold the term in as much regard, but they're not who I started my business to serve. I want my name, like me, to be accessible.
So, I compromised with the business name:
There, both my personalities are satisfied.