Yes, I am both a Therapist and a Badass

by Monica Ross

So this will be an interesting post. What got me thinking about this was my experience in a group therapy class in my master’s degree program. As part of the coursework requirements for the program, we each had to participate in group therapy ourselves. Really it was a quasi-group therapy experience. The program wanted to give us the feel and flavor of a group therapy experience while learning the skills and tools to conduct group therapy ourselves. I learned a lot about myself in that class. But there was one moment during the semester when a fellow student said during the middle of the session, while giving me feedback, “Monica you’re a badass.”

That wasn’t the first time someone has thrown out that descriptor to me. But it took me back a little. I was thinking maybe something more of what we would traditionally associate with a therapist, something more expected like--you're so sweet, thoughtful, kind, generous, considerate, and maybe I am all those things as well.  I would hope.

But in the moment, I was thinking, well, you know that’s kinda true. It was one of those moments that you sometimes get in group therapy where someone throws something out from left field and it actually kind of resonates.  I thought, well, there is also that part of me. I do color just a tad outside the lines. So, okay I’ll own it. I just happen to be all of those therapist like things and a bit of a badass, too.

So what does it mean to be a badass? To me there is a component of being a badass that is empowering. Here’s a quote from a Psychology Today article on the topic.

From the article, “Real badasses are, more often, not people you would likely think are badasses. The guy standing in front of the tanks at Tiananmen Square in 1989 was a badass. Whistleblowers are badasses. My mother who, while dying of cancer, kept herself alive long enough to attend my wedding and died shortly after, was a badass. Staff Sgt. Robert J. Miller, the most recent recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, was a badass.”

I looked a little further into the definition. You’ll find various things in a google search like a Rule #1 of Fight Club don’t talk about Fight Club definition. One of the first things that comes up also are the words tough, uncompromising, intimidating. Ouch. Tough and uncompromising maybe, but intimidating? Let’s hope not.

Maybe we can replace the word intimidating with empowering?  Empowering seems to be more on the being end of the things and intimidating on the receiving with empowering being something we have more agency and control over and intimidating not so much.  Makes me want to get everybody up to the level of empowerment so that everyone feels valued and no one chooses to feel intimidated.  But that's another discussion for another day.

But with words like intimidating one starts to think are we talking about something positive or negative here? The conclusion seems to be overwhelmingly that it’s a positive term and I certainly think my colleague meant it in an endearing way.

Okay, so that said, let’s transition back to the topic of empowerment. I think that one of my chief jobs is to empower the clients that I come across. I try to achieve this from all angles. One angle is that I don’t in any way put myself above my clients, in other words I fully recognize that I could and have swapped chairs with them.

This is not a weakness of mine but a strength. How else? Well, if someone comes in sounding like they are beating themselves up a bit I try to counteract that with attempts at getting them to be less self-critical and more self-compassionate. If a client is feeling downtrodden, I stand in as an advocate and cheerleader of sorts.

It’s not about offering to do the work for our clients but about encouraging them to use their own unique strengths to achieve results for themselves, all the while serving as a guide and offerer of feedback of sorts. It is the sharing of resources and information and tools, so that people can turn around and use those things in their own lives.  It's about empowerment.

It’s okay to be a badass and to inspire a bit of badass-ery in others.