"You are fired" on sticky note on bulletin boardI was a little out of sorts last week. When I’m seeing clients, one of my jobs is to help them figure out what’s bothering them and what they need to do to feel better. I’m pretty good at helping other people do this, but I’m kind of clueless sometimes when it’s me. Not this time, though. I know exactly what’s bugging me.

My appointment book is empty (of client appointments, not doctors’ appointments, that is). A client fired me last week, and I don’t have any others scheduled right now. I should probably clarify: I told the client to fire me. She had made so many fantastic changes and was doing so well that I knew she could find better ways to spend her money. She agreed that she was ready to go it alone.

My ultimate goal as a psychologist is to be fired (assuming it’s not because the client despises me or thinks I’m a dud; those firings don’t feel so great). I want to see my clients thriving and know they’re on the right track. To remind them how insightful and resourceful they are. Yet, I don’t ever want my clients to feel stuck without my guidance. Clients are ultimately the expert on what’s going to make them feel better; I’m just there to help them sort that out.

And my launchings are flexible; the client knows the door is open if need be. I let clients know they’re welcome back at any time if they feel unsteady. And I’ll admit I enjoy it when they do return because I get to catch up on their lives again, and I appreciate knowing they view me as someone who may help.

Since I stopped work abruptly when I was diagnosed with leukemia, I’ve reopened my office cautiously, seeing only clients I’d seen before. Every so often a former client calls, comes in for a few sessions, and then says goodbye. But there are only so many old clients who call, and some are likely hesitant to do so given my vanishing act not so long ago.

I didn’t realize how important these few clients were to me until I didn’t have any more booked. I thrive on any clinical contact right now, and I’m sad thinking of not having any more. It reminds me of how lonely I used to feel following a breakup when I’d wonder whether I’d ever date again.

I guess I’ll have to sit with this feeling for a bit and figure out what I’m going to do about it, if anything. Am I ready to open up my office doors a bit wider, perhaps even take on a new client or two? Or should I allow myself a break for now and see how that feels?  Maybe I’ll have to discuss this with my therapist when I see her this week. That is, assuming she doesn’t fire me first. Unlike my client, I’m not sure I’m ready to go it alone quite yet.


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