Every month we feature interviews with different clinicians. We ask them questions about their professional and personal lives — everything from the toughest part about being a therapist to how they cope with stress. They also share valuable insights into the biggest myths about therapy and their best advice for leading a meaningful life — and much, much more.
This month we’re pleased to talk to Christine Hammond, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, who pens the popular Psych Central blog “The Exhausted Woman.” Hammond has over 15 years of experience in counseling, teaching and ministry. She works primarily with exhausted women and their families in conflict situations to ensure peaceful resolutions at home and in the workplace.
Currently, Hammond works at LifeWorks Group in Winter Park, Fl. She’s also author of the award-winning book The Exhausted Woman’s Handbook. As an experienced teacher and group facilitator, she has led classes and lectures on personality disorders, anger management, developing boundaries, dealing with ADD/ADHD, improving marriages, preparation for marriage, and women’s intimacy issues.
Hammond has been married to her husband, Michael, for over 19 years. They have three teenage children, and are involved in a local church and their community. Learn more about Hammond at www.growwithchristine.com.
1. What’s surprised you the most about being a therapist?
From the outside, the job seems easy. You get to sit all day and listen to people talk. But in reality, it is mentally exhausting. By the end of the day, my stamina for intense focus has been extinguished to the point that simple decisions are sometimes difficult. In addition, in order to remember what my clients say, I often imagine their stories. The result is real life pictures of tragic events and some of these events are hard to disassociate.
2. What’s the latest and greatest book you’ve read related to mental health, psychology or psychotherapy?
Confessions of a Sociopath by M.E. Thomas. This book helped me to understand a sociopath from their perspective. Of course, the difficulty is that sociopaths are notoriously deceptive so the book may not be as accurate as I would like. But it did open my eyes to see what a sociopath would like others to see about them. This has been useful in dealing with my sociopathic clients and has greatly improved my ability to detect one.
3. What’s the biggest myth about therapy?
The biggest myth is propagated by insurance companies who insist that given a diagnosis code, a client should be cured by a certain number of sessions. Everyone is different and one set of standards for one person does not translate in the same standards for another.
In therapy we try to celebrate our uniqueness. Limiting the number of sessions does not take into account the individuality of our client. Oftentimes, the client comes to therapy for one reason but frequently ends therapy having dealt with another. This is a necessary part of growth and healing that is an essential element in therapy.
4. What seems to be the biggest obstacle for clients in therapy?
One of the biggest obstacles is seeing how unresolved past traumas translate into current issues today. Many clients don’t want to focus on the past or drag up a forgotten memory. Yet healing from past issues is precisely what is needed before clarity can be given to current situations.
5. What’s the most challenging part about being a therapist?
Watching someone suffer senselessly is the most challenging, especially when the suffering could have been avoided or it happened to a person who least deserves such pain. This is particularly true when it involves an innocent, unsuspecting child.
6. What do you love about being a therapist?
I love seeing my clients thrive and do life better. It is such a joy to hear how well a client is doing after all of the work in therapy and how their life has been transformed. To be able to watch the transformation is even more amazing and it motivates me when things get rough.
7. What’s the best advice you can offer to readers on leading a meaningful life?
Make sure you take a full 24-hour day of rest every week. This is a time to recharge your batteries, reconnect with loved ones, be still, breathe, and have some quality quiet time. For me, this is part of my spiritual life and is an essential element in staying linked to God.
8. If you had your schooling and career choice to do all over again, would you choose the same professional path? If not, what would you do differently and why?
Absolutely, I would do it again. I love what I do and feel called to this profession.
9. If there’s one thing you wished your clients knew about treatment or mental illness, what would it be?
Having a diagnosis is not a bad thing. A diagnosable disorder helps a person to understand themselves better. It becomes a road map for treatment and healing. Other people in the client’s life benefit as well as they learn the different ways the disorder impacts everyone’s life. It is not a deadly label, rather it is freeing to realize limitations and reset expectations accordingly.
10. What personally do you do to cope with stress in your life?
I write. Sometimes I pretend that I’m writing to a client and saying the things I wish I could say in therapy but can’t for one reason or another. It helps to purge some of the frustrating sessions from my system. It is also a great reminder of the progress of other clients and helps me to focus on finding solutions rather than problems.