Friday, February 05, 2016

Do Therapists Age Out?

I admit to sometimes Googling people, if not after they make an appointment, then before. It helps knowing the public profile, what people are trying to present to the world, as themselves.
Nancy Slagg's profile on Yelp

Working downtown, some prefer to go to therapy on their lunch hour, then go directly home. Because seriously: Can you simply change the channel, switch from sharing things so personal, to attending to what matters most to your boss?

It is an art, switching channels, one honed with time and experience. Rabbis and other men and women of the cloth do it when they run from a funeral to a wedding. Therapists do it when they're seeing eight patients in a row to make some money. We get good at disengaging from the last patient to focus on the next. In a matter of minutes, maybe seconds.

The story:

A friend asked me for a recommendation, a therapist he could see downtown, maybe on his lunch hour. I remembered a short list buried in my email and forwarded him the names.

But we were together at a kids' basketball game, watching the home team get clobbered. So I Googled a few of the referrals. One therapist seemed to be about my age, and I marveled at her accomplishments. She is on the faculty of a prestigious university, does research with the homeless, and has a private practice. She's also a bit expensive. When I showed my friend the bio with photo, he balked.

He says it is possibly ageism, but he wants someone younger, more likely to relate to the issues of his generation.

This gives me pause. Do we really age out? I'm quiet.

The incident gives me a reason to Google myself, something we're told we should do every few weeks, but only true narcissists do. But who knows what kind of negative stuff is on Yelp? My search finds an interview foreign to me. The printed words are definitely mine. It is an online issue of a major newspaper. The final cut has never come to my attention. Or have I just forgotten?

Random people call you up, ask if you will take 15 minutes to chat about a particular subject, and you say, Sure, sure, why not, and before you blink it is over and that's the last you hear from them, no matter how intricate the questions, or how thoughtful the answers.

It graduates to an out of sight, out of mind, thing. You just forget. In this case we had discussed romance and intimacy, getting the most out of a loving relationship, this being that time of year, February, Valentine's Day.

It is worrisome, the thought that I might have seen the interview, read it online, and yet it is totally gone from my long-term memory. Maybe my basketball loving friend is right about aging. Or maybe it isn't aging so much as very full days. When I go on vacation it is all about not returning calls.

The whole interview business reminds me that putting one's self in the public eye, whether on a blog or talking to a reporter between patients, makes you ripe for abuse, thought snatching and misinterpretation. Students plagiarize. They're karma, you used to say. Why care?

And there are apps that help you find where your words have gone. I discovered Dupli-Checker. You don't have to download anything. But now it bothers me, the paranoia. Old people get that, not me.

So people my age not only aren't in touch with young people, but we're likely to get paranoid, too.

Wait a sec. Do therapists get too old to relate to younger people? We have to address this, argue the assumption.

And it is easy, too, because in the big picture, therapy is like this:
Each of us lives in a dense forest. And in this forest are multiple, mostly hidden reasons for our pain and suffering. The answers are there, too, the better responses to situations, challenges, solutions we have yet to consider, wouldn't even think to consider. The forest contains every variable necessary for a good, no, a great therapy. Yet almost all of them are camouflaged, like the spiders, rabbits and other small animals in the forest, the birds in the trees. The older we get, as therapists, the quicker we see the spiders, the webs, the rest of what is hidden. The older we get, as therapists, the better we see what other people, even younger therapists, can't see. 
We'll take notes, naturally, to remember.



Anonymous said...

I love the forest metaphor. I find this is true as a teacher, too--I am getting farther apart from my students in age, but I can see more deeply in. (Sometimes.)

Gary Roth said...

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Grace said...

The question of ageism is perhaps better rooted in how people select a therapist. Ideally, I believe clients or patients would choose a therapist that they 'click' or connect with well, which typically means they relate well.

When you look for help, do you want someone in your age bracket that is going through the same problems and context as you? Maybe you want the wisdom of a young Millennial? Maybe you prefer the expertise of an older, more experienced therapist? I don't think young therapists necessarily have an advantage, but maybe I'm misunderstanding the extent of ageism out there.

Better Things-- Seeing Ghosts