"Helping people who help people"

In honor of my birthday

Today is my birthday!  It’s been a wild journey filled with a lot of happiness and a lot of drama (of the medical kind.)  This is my first year in six long years that I am not pregnant, nursing, or in chronic pain (pregnancy-related damage.)  I have a new sense of life, a new body (post-surgery that 100% rid me of pain), and they say the 30’s are when you really finally figure out who you are and what you want.  Age 34, as I say, is definitely not old, but definitely not YOUNG.  I am squarely in my mid-30’s.  My dad didn’t even get his Ph.D. til age 33, and here I am already on my second major career.

Since this is a blog about those who help people, I want to tie my birthday into the topic of AGE.  Age of the people who are the therapists or educators, and the age of your clients.  My husband (age 32 but looks older) had an older couple call and question whether he could be a good therapist for them.  After the first intake session, there was never an issue.  Who knows if it is because he’s married, has kids, looks older, or has the experience with couples to simply get to work, distracting them from any question of his age. 

I had looked into doing parent education (here in Minnesota, the only state with a 30 year history of offering 0-5 early childhood education in EVERY community, with a licensed childhood educator and licensed parent educator.)  For a number of reasons it didn’t work.  I wasn’t even married, let alone a parent, when I was considering that career.  Did it matter?  Would my education and personality offset any lack of personal experience with the subject matter?  Does being a parent inherently make you a better parent educator?  I know my own transformations as a parent, but does that necessarily mean I would be more helpful to another parent, wired very differently than me?

Most lay folks, in my opinion, have notions of age, experience, wisdom, and who can help.  This may be wholly inaccurate but it’s an issue I rarely see addressed on the web.  Of course no therapist wants to point out their age and feel defensive for their youth (or “wisdom-filled age”) but at the same time, are clients not seeing you because you don’t match their expectations?  I would love to see the issue addressed more.  It could be as simple as, “Is there any reason to chose a therapist who is my same gender or generation?” 

Along with age, race and ethnicity can break my heart.  I’ll get emails on the Marriage Friendly Therapy website from distressed couples looking for someone of a certain race, ethnicity, or foreign language.  It breaks my heart for two reasons.  One, there aren’t a huge number of non-white therapists, and two, race or ethnicity may mean a lot less than experience and personality fit between therapist and couple.  But you can’t really tell a couple that when you have no other relationship with them.

Finally, I am well aware of the distance between me and some (OK, most) of the therapists I have worked with in my web adventures.  In the case of the internet, my “youth” benefits me and I have automatic trust and respect.  It’s odd but makes sense.  I’m the native generation teaching a generation of immigrants.  As my father recently told me when getting my opinion on a project he’s working on, I have the principles underlying the web and websites and he doesn’t.  He starts at specific questions, and I start deeper at the underlying goals, reasons, and tools available.  He’s getting better but realizes he may never fully get where I am. 

And the humbling part?  The next generation is going to be way ahead of me!

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