(You have) Permission to change your mind

I have been struggling with whether to write this, as I usually try to avoid writing essays that are primarily personal updates. (Consider this a  disclosure for those who may prefer to know about less about my personal process, you may want to skip this one). But I think in this case I’m making enough of a pivot that it’s worth explaining, and also because perhaps this can validate something that I like to say:  you have permission to change your mind.

I have been a therapist since I was 24 years old. At that time it was unusual for someone to go to grad school so shortly after college.  I was the second youngest person in my class, and most were at least in their late 20s if not 30s or 40s. My decision to apply to the NYU Art Therapy program was nothing short of divine intervention, the idea materialized almost out of nowhere, and the timing was perfect: it was November, the applications were due mid-January, I reached out to the program and learned that I could apply without having met the prerequisites as long as I fulfilled them by the end of my first semester (I had a BFA in Sculpture so I definitely did not have the prerequisites!), and no GREs were required. I had just enough time to get my letters of recommendation, write a personal essay, send a portfolio and apply. 

I didn’t apply to any other schools. I wrote a very personal essay about my experience with psychiatric care, the important of art in my own healing, and my interest in helping others with perhaps similar circumstances. I did a group interview where I had very little sense of whether I had done well, and I didn’t hear anything back until almost the end of April at which point I got in and was offered a scholarship to enroll part-time while I worked. I had to take 2 classes, 4 nights a week at Baruch College/CUNY (where you could take psychology classes unmatriculated) while working full-time that summer to meet the requirements. But it all worked out in just the right timing. And I almost immediately fell in love with (child) art therapy, it’s one of a few times that I knew immediately “I’m really good at this, I think I was meant to do this.”

There were a lot of ebbs and flows, and unexpected turns in my early career. I started out working with children and families, I was offered a job right out of school that was not really what I wanted but prepared me perfectly for private practice. I left my full time job in hope of doing more administrative programming, research, and teaching (I was already offering trainings). But just two months after I left I was hit by a car, broke my right arm, and was dealing with a major PTSD reaction and a lengthy recovery.  Not to mention being impossibly broke, barely supporting myself while going to rehab three days a week. When I had the opportunity to sublet an office one day a week for private practice it- again- was not what I thought I wanted but it seemed like the best option and the right timing so I did it.

Strangely, my practice suddenly became primarily adults, in spite of consistently calling myself a child therapist. I grew to love it, and I also grew to love private practice. Many of you know the next part of my story where I bizarrely had another accident and broke my other arm, and started exploring reiki, hypnosis and Breathwork largely because I myself needed a way to cope with permenant disability and chronic pain. It also initiated a leg of my own trauma healing that was fundamentally different from the previous decade.

Through the recent 4 years, I have gradually accepted that much of the psychic work I do now actually began back when I was 24 (really, much younger than that), and that it’s always been a part of my practice even though I found a million ways to call it something else. And I devoured theoretical literature and training because I wanted it to be rooted in the cognitive, I wanted the ability to use my mind and not just feel my way through things. I did use my sort of “sixth sense” around trauma, but I always made sure I could co-sign it with a thoughtful analysis and keen observation. It created an incredible foundation and anchor for the way I work now.

But something shifted deeply over the last couple years. I started to realize that like many therapists I worked too much. Much worse than that, I had actually lost touch with a part of myself and my work with others had become the center of my life. When someone asked “tell me about yourself” the first thing I would say is “I’m a therapist.” I started thinking about self-love, and the ideas I often espoused around self-worth needing to be more than just pride in what you do. That moving beyond overachieving and perfectionism meant valuing yourself just for being you, and learning to rest and play again. I realized I wasn’t living by that, I believe this is unfortunately very common among therapists to settle into a state of being where the work becomes “the best thing” about you.  How much can we really offer when we are living in this place?

For me the complex trauma work I do in my practice is the root of my interest in therapy, even when it takes different forms, so trying to do “easier work” as some suggested (whatever that means!) didn’t seem like an appealing option. But I saw clearly that deriving my sense of being so much from my work, even if I was maintaining heathy boundaries in sessions, meant that I was reenforcing my own trauma history as a the most important thing I could offer. I was already pulling back from overworking, but I also started to realize that I could do similar work in a radically different way, and in a way that was more in alignment with my own needs. I resisted it for a long time, but eventually I knew that I needed to pivot towards other types of trauma work and step back from psychotherapy as a primary modality.

I still love trauma work, but the work I do now extends more from my resilience, healing, and recovery, rather than my embodied knowledge of violence. I don’t live in a trauma vortex anymore, and I don’t want to go back. I also continue to have a lot of respect for psychotherapy, but it has limitations and increasingly they felt confining to the work I feel called to do.  Expanding outside this modality also aligns better with my views on what it means to provide healing support that validates wholeness, liberation, and community care.

As I’ve been moving out of my full-time office and into the great unknown, it caught me offguard how many concerned looks I was getting. There is so much stigma around therapists ever doing anything else, as if it means something about whether they care about others (it doesn’t! I LOVE my clients, and yes I still welcome them to return if needed I’m the future even as I shift), or it means that they’ve had some kind of emotional breakdown (ok maybe 😅, but not recently- quite the opposite!) or it means that I’ve just given up on the profession as a whole and am going to go do something “frivolous” and abandon a call to service. 

But it’s so much simpler than that. If we continue to grow and change in adulthood, we may find that we want to do things differently or pursue new interests. It’s not a failing to change your mind and do what will make you happy and nourished based on who you are today. Being interested in new ways of being doesn’t mean what happened before was a mistake. 

I thought I knew exactly what I was going to do for the rest of my life, but I changed my mind. And also…it’s not really so different, just a different way of looking at it.  If I’m lucky, I might have the opportunity to change again (and again).

I’d like to invite you to consider aspects of life that you might be ready to change, if you would give yourself permission. 

Where do you feel blocked, when actually you’re the one standing in the way?

Or making decisions out of fear about what other people will think?

Do you believe you are allowed to change your mind?

One response to “(You have) Permission to change your mind”

  1. […] wrote an essay last year called “you have permission to change your mind,” and it was an acknowledgement that I was in the process of phasing out my psychotherapy practice. […]


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