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I, Too, Am Human

Perhaps you know me. I am the person sitting opposite you in the plush armchair, listening and watching as you speak. I look at you with empathic eyes and a supportive smile. I am simultaneously processing the information you are giving me (both verbally and what’s in between the lines) and considering various therapeutic techniques to help alleviate your suffering.

I strive to find the balance between problem-solving and validating, searching for the elusive head nod that tells me I have understood you. I elicit your feedback to ensure that we are working towards your goals. With your express permission, I consult with other mental health professionals to gain additional perspectives regarding your unique situation. Upon your request, I speak with your parents, schools, doctors, and Rabbonim to advocate on your behalf. I pursue specialized trainings to learn about even more advanced approaches to your treatment. Sometimes I take your emergency phone calls at 2 AM and encourage you to make it through the night, where I hope that the light of day will make things slightly better.

"I am your therapist. And I, too, am human."

After our fifty-minute session ends and you have moved on to your next activity of the day, I too, move on with mine. But your story stays with me. In the back of my mind, I consider things I could have said in our session to be more effective, or brainstorm ideas for the next time we meet. Sometimes I worry about you, even if you do not call me at 2 AM. I question whether I provided you with enough resources to help you through your moments of crisis. I pray for your recovery. On rare occasions, I have even found myself crying in solidarity with your pain. I marvel at how truth is stranger than fiction.

Like many professionals, sometimes I find it difficult to separate my work as a therapist from my work as a mother, a wife, a friend. I express irritation towards my husband for an innocuous crime. I worry about my children suffering the same unspeakable tragedies that I have heard of in my office. I am frustrated that I occasionally demonstrate more empathy for my patients than I do for my own family and friends. I notice myself falling into the same moments of anger, bouts of sadness, and spikes of panic that I have coached you through just hours before. And then I am hit with the feeling of being an imposter, of not being able to abide by the same expectations I set for you. I cringe in shame when people tell me, “Well, you’re the therapist!”

"But there is a silver lining. My work as a therapist has also helped me deal with these emotions and behaviors in ways I never could have in the past."

When I notice my vulnerabilities, I strive to use the therapeutic skills that I have taught you, just hours before. Through repeated practice both on my own and during our sessions together, I become better equipped to catch myself from falling into the abyss. I have personally seen the tools of therapy come to life, and my wish is for you to experience the same success.

The theme of “common humanity” is extensively discussed in the field of psychology. Dr. Kristen Neff, one of the pioneers in the field of self-compassion, explains that “feelings of inadequacy and disappointment are universal.”

We are connected not only in moments of joy and celebration, but also in moments of sadness and misery. We all doubt our competence, our worthiness, whether we are ever “good enough.” In fact, the simple recognition that we are all struggling together is itself healing. Reminding ourselves of common humanity allows us to be kinder, gentler with ourselves than suffering in isolation. This is why social support is considered one of the most important factors, even the single most important factor, to sustaining our mental health no matter its condition.

I believe that common humanity is inherent in Jewish culture—at every life stage, there is a gathering. This is true at births and at deaths, weddings and even divorces require audiences. The message is clear. We are all here together, surfing the same waves of emotions. Each of us is experiencing those emotions differently, and nonetheless we are all united. As Jews we share a collective history of triumph, of despair, and of hope. As we proclaimed aloud at Mount Sinai, we are quite literally “like one man with one heart.”

"We are all fallible, we are all vulnerable, and we all want to improve. It is only when you and I join, respecting and honoring the humanness of us both, that we can work together to achieve our goals."

And for the admirable efforts I witness you demonstrate week after week, I applaud you.

Together, we are therapist and patient. And we both, are human.


Author: Rebecca Holczer, PsyD, is a supervising psychologist at Center for Anxiety’s Rockland County office. Rebecca completed her doctoral degree at La Salle University (Philadelphia, PA) and a postdoctoral fellowship at Center for Anxiety. She specializes in treating anxiety disorders and emotion dysregulation using both Cognitive-Behavioral and Dialectical Behavior Therapy approaches.


For more information on contributing the CCSA blog, please out to Ellie Forman at

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