Some of you know that I have Wonder Woman all over my waiting room. Wait, scratch that. Some of you may know that I have Wonder Women all over my waiting room. I have artist renditions of different kinds of women — fat, thin, young, old, hip and matronly, different ethnicities — all as Wonder Woman. Some of them are very serious and dignified and some of them are silly. They are all awesome.
When I was first decorating my office I went back and forth about hanging them all up. If you’ve been to many therapist offices then you know that most of them are pretty neutral and I wondered if it would be too much of me there in the waiting room. I thought maybe I should go with a tasteful Pottery Barn neutrality or maybe just a touch of Ikea blank hipness. I thought about having, you know, a gentle beach landscape on my wall.
But then I decided that I am not really a neutral therapist. I mean, I crack jokes a lot. I’m not always all that dignified, much to my chagrin. So I figured that since the research says that our success depends on the relationship that we build together then we would all be better off if my clients knew what they were getting right up front and what they’re getting is someone who thinks it’s appropriate to have a comic book character all over her waiting room.
So why Wonder Woman? Why not Bat Girl? Or Buffy? Or some other out-sized heroine of justice and truth? Here is why.
When I was a kid my mom had a Wonder Woman picture hanging in our kitchen. (You can see it in my waiting room now — it’s the one on the wall you’re facing when you are heading into my play therapy room.) I wasn’t much for comic books and if I was reading a comic book it was much more likely to be Sabrina the Teenage Witch but I liked that Wonder Woman picture. I liked the TV show, too, and I liked the Saturday morning Super Friends episodes with her in them the most. I liked the idea of her. I used to run around my neighborhood pretending I was this character I made up, Shadow the Midnight Panther, leaping off my Huffy bike to fight the powers of evil. I’m not so sure that I would have invented Shadow if I hadn’t had Wonder Woman as an example. (The reason I was not actually Wonder Woman is that I really wanted a cape — Shadow had a cape — and I liked cats a lot and panthers are super cool.)
Later when I was a loud young feminist my mom mentioned that Wonder Woman was on the very first issue of Ms. Magazine. That’s when I realized that Wonder Woman meant something to a lot of women — not just to my mother and not just to me. I still liked her only now I liked that she was a touchstone. I liked that she reminded me of the terrible 70s fashion of my youth and of the specific feminism that I grew up with. (When I was little I would read Ms. and flip to the No Comment in back, then the “click” letters in the front and finally to Stories for Free Children.) That specific feminism taught me that it was OK to be angry, to be strong, to be outspoken and to have a sense of humor.
All of that is to say that Wonder Woman is hanging in my office as a way to share that I’m a feminist therapist. Now you don’t have to be a feminist to come see me — that’s the great thing about feminism, it very clearly says that we all get to be who and what we want and need to be — but I want people to know that they’re seeing a feminist therapist because, again, you should know what you’re getting right up front if you’re thinking about seeing me.
Very often clients will tell me that they saw a Wonder Woman thing — the book that just came out, a doll, a t-shirt — and they’ll say, “I thought of you!” But I’ll tell you the truth, I really hope that someday my clients will see Wonder Woman and think of themselves, of what they worked at and what they learned in our time together. I have all of these Wonder Women in my office because I want my clients to see their own strength and power and heroism. I want them to see themselves reflected in the Wonder Women on my walls.
I’ll add that while I do see men in my practice I mostly see women and kids — boys and girls. Someone — not a client — asked me why I don’t have male super heroes on my walls and my answer to that is that we get to see lots of male super heroes everyplace else. We get to see them at the movies and on television and on the shelves in our toy stores. I have nothing against male super heroes — I especially like Spider-Man — and you’ll find them in my sand tray toys. But I like to do my part to even out the representation in the world a little bit, which is why Wonder Woman gets the prime real estate in my office.
Note: I haven’t blogged the last two weeks because as some of you know I slipped on the ice and jammed my finger by sliding hand first into a curb. I think the technical term for what I did to my finger is “stoved.” It was my middle finger, which made wearing a splint super hilarious since just by wearing it I was inadvertently flipping the entire world off. The most annoying thing about it was not being able to type. Years from now when I’m filing away my client case notes I will notice that two weeks worth are all lower case, terse and filled with typos. I will see them and remember, “Oh yes, those were the splint weeks!” And I will once again be reminded to always be grateful for spring.
A long time ago I made the decision not to have any magazines that accept advertising lying around my waiting room. This is because most magazines (not all but most) that accept advertising end up answering to the advertisers. This is why you’ll see an article about spring allergies next to an ad for prescription allergy medication.
I used to work for a magazine and my editors made me aware of certain things I couldn’t say and certain things I ought to say to make the advertisers happy. One memorable morning my boss put me on the phone with an advertiser who had some “suggestions” for an article I’d written because he didn’t feel I’d done a good job of representing his company’s point of view on the issue.
Glossy mags don’t depend on subscribers for their money — especially now that most of us read on the internet instead of waiting for the latest issue in the mail — they depend on advertising. Publishers will even give away subscriptions to increase their numbers (sign up at freebizmag.com and you’ll get regular invites to grab free subscriptions). But they don’t really answer to us, their readers, they answer to their advertisers.
Magazine publishers may pay lip service to the idea that they want us to feel good about ourselves but if we felt too good about ourselves then we likely wouldn’t buy their advertisers’ products. We wouldn’t buy special anti-aging serums if we thought our smile lines were fine or weren’t worried about age spots. So they rev up our worry. The writers and the editors of the magazine (and lots of magazine-type web sites) write articles with titles like, “The Best Anti-Aging Tips and Tricks” with a list of fancy-shmancy moisturizers that so happen to be made by the company with an ad on the inside back cover.
They make it sound like everybody — all of us — already agreed that we are all without exception anti-aging. If we happened to not really worry about it then we might feel like, oops, I’m missing something that everybody else already knows. And just maybe the little bit of anxiety they inspire in us will stick with us when we head to the grocery store and maybe we’ll stop in the make-up aisle and look at the latest moisturizer (the one featured in the magazine) and we’ll buy it and the manufacturer will have more money to spend on advertising.
This is why we don’t get articles saying, “The pros and cons of looking your age” because they don’t want you to know that that’s even an option. No, they want you to worry about your laugh lines and the crow’s feet around your eyes; they need you to worry about it.
I think the counseling office ought to be a place where there’s no chance of picking up a magazine that’s going to tell you all the things you’re doing wrong (or at least could be doing better). I think my waiting room ought be a “no anxiety production” zone. So. No magazines are in my waiting room.
I used to have this at my house but now I have an office so I’m going to move it there. You’re all invited!
This is your chance to clean out your cupboards, closets and under the bed and maybe get a head start on your holiday shopping.
Here’s how the Annual Toy Swap works:
- People arrive with their gently used toys, books and clothes.
- They drop things off in my waiting room and maybe get themselves a cup of tea
- They rummage through other people’s things.
- They laugh with each other, complain about how their kids never even TOUCHED that toy after begging for it for months, pick things out, discard things, hold up dresses to consider sizing and discuss their holiday plans as well as the extended family members with whom they will be forced to deal with in the upcoming weeks.
- They will leave with new-to-them stuff.
- OR they will drop their things off and leave without grabbing more, just happy to have an excuse to declutter.
- Everything left over will get donated to either the Northwest Counseling Help Me Grow program or to the Syntero therapy offices serving kids or to Volunteers of America.
When: Sunday, November 24th, 1pm to 5pm
Where: My offices at 6660 North High Street, Suite 1A (park in back, come in the side doors)
Frequently Asked Questions:
- Can I come get things if I don’t have anything to share? Absolutely!
- Can I drop things off without picking things up? Sure!
- Do I have to hang out the whole time? Nope, but you’re welcome to if you’d like.
- Can I drop things off beforehand? Yes, just contact me to arrange it.
Some of the songs I share in my Therapeutic Moments category are ones that I play in the waiting room of my office; this is one of them.
“Waiting at the airport on my suitcase,
a girl traveling from Spain became my sudden friend,
though I did not learn her name.
And when the subway dimmed
a stranger lit my way.
This is the brotherhood of man.”
the innocence mission / brotherhood of man from LAMP on Vimeo.
I’ve been spending the last few months looking for counseling office space to launch my private practice. I had one lined up, a shared office in a very nice location. But I work with kids as well as with adults, which means I need somewhere to store play therapy toys and a waiting room that’s welcoming to children.
Unfortunately the shared office wasn’t going to cut it. I realized this when I came by to talk to the owner and took a closer look at the waiting room, which I’d noted was bright and sunny and spacious but neglected to recognize the safety issue of having an open landing to the stairs.
Office space is interesting. You have to get a good location, of course, and ample parking. You want to find a place with character and appropriate square footage and a decent lay-out. If you’re lucky you’ll get a view and natural lighting and clean carpet. But unless your budget is limitless (mine isn’t) you have to make compromises and figuring out how and where to compromise has been my challenge. It’s certainly been fun looking and imagining; it’s a little like house-hunting but it feels a lot less stressful.
I think I found the right place. It has a lot going for it, most particularly the location. It’s on the bus line and very near shops and eateries and the library. The downsides (no view and on the lower-level) are liveable. I’m very pleased that there will be room for all the toys and even enough square-footage to run small groups or workshops.
Another advantage to going out on my own is that I won’t be restricted by someone else’s hours. I want to be able to be flexible while I figure out what works for me and for my clients.
Now the fun will be to set it up just the way I like it or at least as close to how I would like it. It will take time to figure out exactly what I need and then I can’t afford every little thing I’d like (one day I want to have two counseling rooms — one for play therapy and one just for adults but for now it’ll be all in one space). But even if space is a little tight, it will be nice to have a chance to use the tools I’ve been gathering over the years in preparation for my own practice.
Once I’ve moved in and set it up I’ll be having an open house and I hope you locals will come by and take a peek. (You can subscribe to the newsletter to get a heads up!) I’ll also be sure to post pictures. Right now I’m enjoying myself by looking at paint chips and room lay-outs and getting ridiculously excited!