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The Importance of Showing Up as a Messy Imperfect Therapist

By Karen Robinson

Heal Thrive Dream 

Or Is It? Random thoughts of a flawed therapist

I’m writing. Mind is cloudy despite meditating briefly prior to my first writing session with Fosters Writing Intensive. The workshops this week have been truly magical. I’m still in awe of one of the writing coaches who happens to be a somatic coach. Clearly, my higher power understands my needs and my resistance to them.

I have no issues now with admitting I’m a complete, absolute messy mess. The more I heal and grow, the more I’m willing to embrace my imperfections. If you need to work or spend time with someone with all their peas in their pod, I’m not your person. I’m a person who works well with other type A, messy, high achievers. There are many descriptive words for us, but “boring” is certainly not one of them.

So…what makes me messy? Well, perhaps the better question would be, what doesn’t? I’m the night owl who also schedules 7:00 am clients as I don’t want to lose a moment of working time. I’m the avid reader who consumes multiple books each week and claims she wants to be a writer but never makes time to write. I’m the therapist who invites clients to take charge of their healing while simultaneously sabotaging my own. Who does that? It sounds absurd but apparently I do it, and I do it quite well.

I’m realizing now that maybe I’m not sharing much by stating I’m imperfect since perfection doesn’t exist, but since I was raised or beat down to submission, it feels I’m sharing something hard. I can’t even seem to articulate my thoughts effectively on this matter. I’m imperfect about not even caring or trying to SEEM perfect anymore. I know I absolutely need to show up as my raw, vulnerable, authentic, messy self in the spaces I’m existing in, or else I'd rather not be there at all. I refuse to be controlled, bullied, or harassed. I don’t want to feel oppressed. Thus, I now work for myself. I do have one part-time contract position and will keep it now for financial stability, and because it allows me to work with active duty personnel, veterans, and retirees. I still feel called to serve them. Maybe because many of them are also dealing with their personal messiness — be it from childhood wounds, relationship strife, combat trauma, and moral injuries.

All trauma are moral injuries as how could we not question God? How can we take the licks of the belt, see our battle buddy be blown to bits, or hear about other depravity and wonder, why God, why? Injury to our spirit. Also seen when clergy or “good church people” abuse or terrorize. I’m incredibly thankful for my faith and learning how to tune in and listen to a force bigger than me, that is in me. I firmly believe God loves the messy.

Ha! As I’m writing this, my daughter handed me a bottle of Coke (that I “shouldn’t” be drinking since I started exercising yesterday and declared a fresh start for my health). Here I’m on day 2, yet again show my messiness. Grace, my daughter, failed to say she went to 711 on a walk and threw the bottle over a fence returning home. Guess what happened when I opened? What a MESS! Thankfully I moved my laptop in the nick of time. I guess I’m staying off zoom since I needed to remove my shirt and am working covered with a thin blanket. I will shower after my writing session. I’m determined to meet 500 words and I did it!

Other times I show up messy in my life or other issues I torment (slight exaggeration here) myself about: I don’t make my kiddos big breakfasts before school. Don’t you know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day? Wait, has that been proven? Who knows. I make my children a big breakfast every blue moon and thus they don’t expect it. They are in awe when I order the family breakfast meal from IHOP and appreciate every bite of it. I show up messy as a therapist when I don’t show up at all! This messiness really hurts me as it feels completely unprofessional, incompetent, and that I’m not considerate of my client’s time. I admit I have overslept for 7 am EST sessions. I don’t think the time of the session is the problem. I know the issue is not setting bedtime as a priority and working way too late. I now have solved this issue by setting multiple alarms so there is hope for me!

I sense the need to offer something of value to anyone crazy enough to read this. Some sort of meaningful takeaway. My head hurts, even with the Coke and thus brilliance isn’t readily popping up. I’m going to keep writing until something less brilliant pops up. I got it! Don’t drink Coke and write when you are embracing messiness and imperfection. Don’t set your intention on being messy; set your intention on simply just showing up as your true self. Stay tuned to learn more about how I am both a successful professional AND a hot mess! Does this describe you too? Please comment below.

If you would like to join a supportive community of like minded professional women stumbling in their healing but desire huge healthy changes in their lives, please consider enrolling into our monthly membership: This Is Us: Healing From Trauma Together. We would love to embrace you in your messiness. 

Please check out my blog: https://healthrivedream.com or Karen Lynn Robinson, LCSW of Heal Thrive Dream – Medium

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  1. I find that admitting that your life is messy simply shows that you are sensitive to your own wellbeing as well as those around you. I know that therapists cannot be perfect, if they were, they would never be able to connect with clients' problems, right? A favorite book I've read this year is "Maybe You Should Talk to Someone" by Lori Gottlieb. She admitted to her messy life too. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much Angie! I did read that book and found the author’s authentic writing helpful. I appreciate your comment.

  2. I love your honesty and vulnerability. I too struggle with much of this same messiness! I am not a therapist but I am a coach who often shares my messiness with others even when it feels challenging. Thanks for modeling imperfection.

    1. Thank you Minette for your thoughtful comment. It always helps to hear other strong women admit that they too are messy!

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Karen Robinson

  Karen Robinson  

About the Author

I'm licensed therapist with 25 years of clinical experience. Service driven, specializing in trauma recovery, anxiety, and depression, holistic care, and transformation to create an impact for trauma survivors globally. Services include coaching, therapy, virtual courses, digital products, and on-line memberships.

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