Wounded Healer: An Ask Dr. Neimeyer Guest Column

Editor’s Note: This week is a departure. The following was written by Mary Jane Hurley Brant, M.S., CGP in response to last week’s post about a therapist who had experienced both multiple personal losses and a practice relocation. You can read it at this link:  CLICK HERE.

Mary Jane is a frequent contributor to AfterTalk. This is how she describes herself:

Professionally, I am a practicing Human Relations Counselor with a Jungian perspective, a Certified Group Psychotherapist and a Clinical Member of The American Group Psychotherapy Association.  I’ve been practicing as a depth psychotherapist for 38 years meaning I believe in the power of the Wounded Healer AfterTalk Grief Supportunconscious to offer us some truths and to help set us free emotionally. 

I have specialized in grief and loss and serious illness – particularly after the death of my precious daughter, Katie, to a brain tumor. My work is with individuals, couples and religious communities.  I run groups on specific topics.  In March, 2009, I founded and have facilitated a free-of-charge group for bereaved mothers who have lost children. It’s called “Mothers Finding Meaning Again.”

She is also the author of When Every Day Matters: A Mother’s Memoir on Love, Loss and Life, available from Amazon at this link: CLICK HERE

To visit Mary Jane’s website CLICK HERE

Dr. Neimeyer,

Such a sensitive and helpful reply to this suffering therapist, B. I appreciated your expression “wounded caregiver.” In my speech I have sometimes used “wounded healer” but I like your choice of phrase more.

For sure B has lost her moorings but someday she will be in a good place to share even this experience with other suffering souls. Jung believed that as therapists we cannot take a client to places that we ourselves have not gone. I believe that.

I think it would be such a great thing if B would take your advice of self-compassion and add a lot of self-care. I would like to see her indulge her every sensibility – maybe write and paint or cook and even join a yoga class. All with a self-emphasis made consciously as in “This is for you, B; you’ve had a rough and painful time and you need this self-care for yourself now. You need to help yourself to heal. It’s not a luxury; it’s a necessity.” Rest and sunshine on one’s face during long walks can also bank some elevated feelings to raise one’s confidence again.

I would also like to share a little here about moving a practice. It’s not a walk in the park but it can be done. Once, years ago, when the sorrows in my own life were actually on hold I moved for my husband’s job to lands in the North. I felt optimistic that I would have little trouble beginning my practice anew. The timing seemed perfect and we thought the change of home and scenery would be good for both of us. My colleagues wondered what the heck I was doing given my practice was large and well-established.

Well, my new community couldn’t figure out my extroverted personality and I was astounded at how reserved my entire town was. I wondered if maybe my colleagues were right! But it only took one woman (who eventually became a client) who told me, kindly, that my new community has a very quiet way of living life and that they will “eventually” see my therapeutic gifts but – in the meanwhile – I might like to take it a “little” more slowly. Then she smiled. What a wonderful and unexpected gift she gave to me and how grateful I was to receive it.

It took me seven months until I was up and walking, not running anymore. I also switched gears and focused on running groups and less so on a one-on-one practice in the beginning. I simultaneously removed my grief profile in that interim knowing a temporary respite was a healthy choice. I signed up for art classes and joined a woman’s group to help the less fortunate. I began two groups: women in transition (since I was learning those ropes) and a men’s group I called “Finding The Inner King.” Both were highly successful and referrals began from there.

As we both know, Dr. Neimeyer, we never know what life is going to throw at us and being able to offer ourselves that compassion you always write about with us is where we must begin. I must also tell you that I know some cowboys and a few cowgirls out in Montana and Wyoming and when I’m lucky I can get out there and ride with them. They would wholeheartedly agree with your sagacious advice about not needing to lead a cattle drive when what is called for in B’s case is a slow and steady ride through the mountains before any open-fielded galloping.

Mary Jane Hurley Brant, M.S., CGP

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