“Would you like to save the world from the degradation and destruction it seems destined for? Then step away from shallow mass movements and quietly go to work on your own self-awareness. If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself. If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself. Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation.”
— Lao Tzu
I have always believed that it is through helping others that I can transform myself. I suppose this is why I decided to set up a therapy practice in my driveway. If the world is going to be saved this is one way to do it. I set out two comfortable chairs facing each other. I bought them at a thrift store for under ten bucks a piece. One is yellow, the other brown and they have a strange, therapeutic musty smell coming from them. I imagine that in the seventies they must of been nice. In front of the chairs I put a small table with an empty coffee can and a sign that reads, “Talk Therapy by Donation.” I would be lying if I did not admit to a bit of greed- it was my hope that the coffee can would be filled with one, five and ten dollar bills by the end of the week.
I have been studying to be a psychotherapist for the past year. Currently I am in my second year of graduate school. I also work twenty hours a week at a trauma center. The work is unpaid but I am told that this is the nature of the training process- I am learning how to be a therapist in return for my time. I can not say that I am happy about this situation since learning does not pay the rent and man can not live off of training alone, but it seems that I have no choice. I have to bite the bullet and serve my time. I feel honored to work with people who are living through intense trauma but the irony is that it is traumatic for me to work and not get paid. So I have no choice but to find other ways to make a living and with the economic recession being how it is- this is not easy. I figure I have a skill, I am good at doing talk therapy. I have read the books, gone through years of therapy myself and despite what the state says about licensing regulations- I feel that I am ready to go. Since lots of people walk past my driveway everyday, I feel like it is the perfect place to open my therapy practice.
I know that it helps the psychotherapist to be perceived as intelligent and wise if they have self-help or psychology books lying around. So I brought out a dozen or so of my psychology textbooks and a few books written by Jung and Freud and stacked them on the table beside my chair. I figured that this would give me an air of legitamcy. When a passer by saw the name Freud or Jung (depending on their sexual and metaphysical affiliation) they may feel more comfortable to sit with me. Also the books on family therapy, multicultural psychotherapy and Gestalt therapy could not hurt. I put a small clock on my table as well and watched the minutes tick towards afternoon as I sat in my chair, cross legged and waited for someone to come and sit down. I refused to beg- I would just be patient and wait.
At around 1:15 one person did come and sit down. He looked like a man ravaged by life, chain smoking and smelling like he drank too much booze the previous night. At that point I did not care- I was happy to get someone. I told him that the sessions were twenty five minutes long and my fee was by donation. He shook his head and seemed to understand the deal. “You mind if I smoke?” he asked. I did not mind. “So what can I do for you today?” I inquired. He just sat there and smoked his cigarette. “It’s nice out here man,” he said looking around. His voice sounded as if he spent one too many years with a cigarette in his mouth. I watched the clock and noticed that he had already used up seven of his minutes. “Is there anything I can help you with today?” I asked again. The man looked at me from behind eyebrows that were begging for a trim. “Just needed to take a seat friend.” I decided that I would just let him sit there since I remembered learning in graduate school that silence can be just as beneficial to a client as talking. When his twenty five minutes were up I let him know that it was the end of our time. “Well thanks for letting me sit here with you. It was helpful,” the man said. I could hear a few of his bones cracking as he defied gravity by standing up. He put a dollar bill in my coffee can and walked a way.
As I was writing down my client notes (I like to keep notes on all my clients just so I can have a record of what went on) my neighbor came over and sat down. She looked a bit stressed out. “What are you doing?” she asked in a concerned tone. In the town where I live it is hard to spin a cat by its tail without hitting a psychotherapist in the head so it was no surprise to me to learn that my neighbor was a psychotherapist. “Do you realize that you can not just do therapy on your driveway? Do you realize that this is against the law?” I was stunned and disturbed at the same time. All I could think to say was, “I do not really concern myself with the law, I am more concerned with saving the world.” I know it sounds a bit idealistic but this is how I felt. “You think you are going to save the world by doing illegal therapy on your driveway? Are you kidding?” she said getting a little aggressive with me. “Look,” I said, “I appreciate your concern but the world is in trouble and the only way that it will be saved is if we look within ourselves and do what each of us needs to do to make a change. For me it’s doing talk therapy on my driveway.” My neighbor took a long, deep breath and said, “Oh my god. I think that you are the one in need of talk therapy! I am going to write to the American Psychological Association about you!!” She stomped her foot hard on the ground and I could already tell that this women had serious childhood issues that had to do with not getting what she wanted and not feeling heard. As much as I wanted to tell her to go to hell, I was in the therapist role so I said, “Thank you for sharing with me how you feel. Is there anything else that you would like to talk about?” She walked away.
I decided to keep my therapy practice open until six. I know what you are thinking, “What kind of therapy practice consists of two old chairs on a driveway?” Maybe you think I am even a little nuts. That is ok, seldom are visionaries appreciated in their own time. As I see it we are living in a changing world. There is an opportunity for each one of us to redefine who we are and how we want to live our lives. If we want we can choose to transform ourselves and no longer be confined and oppressed by the laws and authorities that have controlled our lives. We all see now that this government and corporate control/oppression has been in the name of profit for the select few and not in the majorities best interest. So my way of transforming the world and myself is to redefine how psychotherapy is practiced. If my neighbor does not like it tough. I should not have to get a license to do talk therapy when I am already good at it. I should not have to be in a florescent lit office all day when I enjoy working outside. I should not have to work for free. So having my therapy practice on my driveway sounds like a brilliant idea to me. Now I just needed to wait for someone to show up.