Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Who's Afraid of a Room Full of Therapists?

Well, me, evidently! Tomorrow, I will be representing both my book and my employer, Timberline Knolls, as I head up to the Meier Clinic in Wheaton, Illinois to share my story, introduce myself, and have a little Q & A powwow with their clinical staff. This will be the first of several visits to Meier Clinics across the country, so we're kickin' it off with the one right in by own backyard. I really have no reason to be nervous; I mean, it’s not a room full of drill sergeants; it’s a room full of therapists. Should be a gentle crowd; these folks are encouraging and supportive by trade. They’re nice people, for a living. Right?

But, see, it’s that voice again. That nasty, weasely little voice that likes to chime in and remind me of who I am not: credentialed, official, well-schooled, respected, esteemed. A graduate. A finisher. A someone. A someone with letters – Jena Morrow, XYZ, PDQ. So what do I have to say to a room full of PsyD’s and LCPC’s and LCSW’s and LMFT’s and LMNOP’s? And why do they seem to want to listen?

Good question. But they do. And they’ve invited me. And I’m going.

Do you recognize that voice? Does she creep into your mind and tease and taunt you, too? Does she tell you that you are not good enough, smart enough, and that doggone it, maybe people really don’t like you? She is the anti-Stewart Smalley. She is the author of a bestseller: Negative Affirmations. And the only reason it’s a bestseller is that we keep on buying it. A recent development in my life: I’m sick of it.

In my work at Timberline Knolls (a residential treatment center for women battling eating disorders, mood disorders, and substance abuse), I am becoming familiar with Marsha Linehan’s practical modality known as DBT: Dialectical Behavior Therapy. The term ‘dialectical’ is defined as “holding two seemingly opposite truths together as one” –specifically, holding acceptance together with a willingness to change. (In this case, I am accepting that I am feeling intimidated by a group of twenty well-educated therapists, while also exercising my willingness to change by getting in the car and driving to the clinic to tell my story and speak to the staff.)

The overall goal of DBT is to enable clients to create “a life worth living.” This idea, as I see it, compliments the thesis of Donald Miller’s recent book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: we must live in such a way that we tell a good story with the lives that we live. I’m learning, opportunity by opportunity, to live my life in such a way. I am learning to take risks. Without them, our lives are boring—safe, but boring. Not the kind of story that will hold the attention of our grandchildren one day. Without taking some risks, I’m not even sure I am capable of creating a life worth living. Are you?

So, I’m going. I’m going as I am, accepting that I am intimidated, but being willing to change and not stay stuck in my apprehension.

I’m going.

Can’t live out a good story without conflict and drama and tension and action, right?

Right. And I’m going.


  1. You are going and I am praying for you. Yes, we are here for others, and they actually like when we are transparent- share in their struggles and whether they are a victim of addictive behavior or on the other side of the desk- we all struggle with SOMETHING. So go knowing God says what we have been through is not for nothing- we will be able to offer comfort and hope to others that just might help them along their way :-)

  2. Thank you! I am feeling much better today. Just really grateful for all of these amazing opportunities . . . my ongoing prayer is, "Lord, please don't let me say anything stupid." :-)

    Thank you for praying for me! XOXO

  3. I'm really looking forward to meeting you at Hungry for Hope, Jena. Bless you.

  4. Jena: I'm so glad I stopped over here today! Although you've gone and returned by now, I'm proud of you for overcoming your fears. Like Diana said, all those therapists have their own inner battles--they may dress them up in finer clothes than we do...

    So proud to be associated with you,

  5. Jena,

    I unfortunately only got to hear your introduction on "Midday Connection" today, and missed your story. I plan on listening to it online later. I did, however, want to find out more about you and ta da! I found your blog. I'm a total and complete self-proclaimed psychology nerd - yes, your blog apparently attracts my kind - so I am looking forward to new posts, and getting caught up on some old ones. Speaking of posts, this whole May 26-I'm-freaking-out-about-speaking-to-a-room-full-of-therapists thing needs resolution! How did it go?!

    Well, I'll get back to work now. Thanks for the break.

    Leslie Delk

  6. I am horrible at keeping up with this blog . . . REALLY need to step it up! Here's your resolution, Leslie: it was alllll good. They were some of the nicest therapists on Earth, and they were entirely gracious! I have since gone on to speak to several other "rooms full of therapists", and always to kind and gracious response. It has gotten SO miuch easier . . . and I find that I LOVE these speaking engagements. (After all, what more supportive audience than a group of clinicians, right?)

    Thanks for your interest!