Every month we interview a different clinician about everything from practicing therapy to leading a meaningful life. This month we had the pleasure of talking to Jeffrey Sumber, MA, a psychotherapist, marriage counselor and life coach.
Below, Sumber reveals what’s surprised him the most about being a therapist and the challenge of balancing burnout with making a difference. He shares the importance of shifting our paradigms, discovering our own definitions of meaning and much more.
Sumber also teaches sociology and psychology at National-Louis University and joyfully serves as a non-denominational wedding officiant on behalf of his company, Celebrate Love Chicago!
You can learn more about Sumber’s coaching at The Mindful Prepper, which he describes as “mindfulness coaching and preparing the Self for whatever life throws at us.” And you can find additional information about Sumber and his work at his main website.
1. What’s surprised you the most about being a therapist?
I have never really gotten used to the intensity of impact I have on clients over the course of treatment. While it is inevitable that my comfort level, trust and relaxation increases over time in the therapeutic relationship, it is forever humbling to find that even the simplest, off-the-cuff statements in a session can be taken in unintended ways. Even those “chance” interactions with clients in public places have an impact and will likely lead to process in the therapy office. Being a therapist has impacted my behavior in public, the choices I make on social networking sites and even the level of political activism I choose. I still haven’t gotten used to that.
2. What’s the latest and greatest book you’ve read related to mental health, psychology or psychotherapy?
When I was in high school, I applied to Harvard for my undergraduate experience and one of the questions my interviewer asked me was to please list the last 5 books I had read that month. My face turned pale and I ended up walking away with a pit in my stomach, not even to apply (until I went to graduate school). I have been listening to a series of tapes by Tony Robbins and his work with couples called “Get the Edge.” I prefer listening and watching than reading.
3. What’s the biggest myth about therapy?
The biggest myth about therapy is that it is now mainstream. While there are far more people exposed to and participating in therapy today than ever before, it is simply not true that being in treatment does not carry with it some level of stigma or projection for clients, their families, friends and acquaintances. Whether it is secrecy from work, fear of insurance claims affecting future jobs, or even simply a new relationship and the concern over sharing “too much” about what that weekly appointment is all about, I do not believe that we are “there” yet as a society when it comes to mental health as a spectrum, not an either/or.