“This Therapist’s Life” is an interview series intended to demystify therapists to the public while giving permission to therapists to speak from the heart about the joys and challenges of what we do, in and out of the office.
Introducing, Linda Esposito.
Who is Linda Esposito?
I am a licensed clinical social worker practicing in Los Angeles, CA and a mom to a biracial 13 year-old son who’s grateful for the middle school years because classmates no longer ask if he’s adopted! I’m currently devouring anything related to social/emotional IQ, and all-things chocolate macadamia and kick-boxing. Also, looking for a cure for my recent Instagram obsession.
What do you enjoy about your work?
Definitely helping my anxious clients get on the other side of strung out and indecisive. And the surly teens, they are my favorite age group!
What is challenging?
Dealing with unmotivated clients. Therapy is a huge expenditure of your time, money and physical and emotional energies. I understand how trust is difficult for many, but at some point you have to take the leap and be willing to take in nurturance and someone else’s interpretations and suggestions. If not, you’re short-changing yourself and prolonging your psychic pain. I see my role as that of motivator, and I’m constantly monitoring myself in session, but it’s a two-way street. I can’t do my job is you’re unwilling to do your part. Sadly, when the psychotherapy intervention is not successful, unmotivated clients blame you for not helping them to get better.
What is one of your greatest experiences in therapy?
Seeing the Aha! moments as they unfold. The beauty of opening up in a safe, neutral and confidential environment is the ability to see how you see the world, and why you think and do the way you do. Change is a golden process to behold!
Do you have any regrets in your work? In hindsight, what would you have done differently?
Never, ever have practiced counseling couples! Luckily, there were only a few. The tipping point came when I supported one spouse for being honest about their transgressions, and the other spouse accused me of siding. Needless to say, the “intervention” was a fail, and the couple left therapy shortly after. I think of them on occasion, and hope they ended up in good therapeutic hands. Lesson learned was stick to your niche! It’s a tough road to navigate because you have to experience what modalities are a good fit, and those which are not. I share this story, and other mistakes with MSW supervisees because honesty and self-awareness are critical to good clinical work and most importantly, to do no harm.
What would you like your clients or potential clients to understand about the work you do?
That I am paid to listen from the moment you enter my office and until the moment you leave (and often, afterwards). I am laser-focused on you and how you think and interpret the world around you. I also believe in appropriate self-disclosure because it helps to build trust and communicate that ‘baby, we are all in this life together.’ And we laugh. Humor is such an important life skill, and it should make its way into the therapy room, as necessary.
Are there ways your work positively impacts your personal life?
Absolutely. I’m a more compassionate person as a result to listening to my clients endure emotional pain. Mental suffering comes in all shapes, sizes, income levels, and beyond. You never know if that guy behind you in the grocery store line just suffered a traumatic event, or if the woman serving your dinner was just diagnosed with a catastrophic illness. I’ve learned that there is no substitute for a stable, loving, and boundary-filled upbringing. I’m a more conscientious parent (on most days), too.
Are there ways your work has been a challenge to your personal life?
The advent of social media, and balancing all that goes with maintaining a website; keeping up with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and the sheer time it takes me to write and research articles, to figuring out a coding or other tech issue. And then there’s the Siberian Husky videos to troll online…don’t get me started!
How would the people close to you describe you as related to your work?
To paraphrase, committed to the clinical process, passionate about uncovering the dark side we all possess, and all in when it comes to teaching social/emotional intelligence (EQ). Psychoanalytic and clinically incisive.
Is there something others might find funny to know about you?
Probably more ironic, than funny, but after our Siberian Husky, Ca$h ran away (and was subsequently found), the local animal rescue recommended adopting another dog to provide companionship. I chose the one shelter canine (we named him Bullet) who wants nothing to do with Ca$h, and runs away whenever he’s left alone. Now I have two special-needs dogs — one with severe separation-anxiety and the other with an inferiority complex. Good thing I’m a therapist!
What are some things you would do if you had more time?
Travel. I know that it’s so trite and middle-class, but I’m amazed that I don’t do more of it since I love getting away. There’s so much to see and do!
Why do you do the work of therapy? What does it mean to you?
We can never possess too much self-awareness (and for you anxious folks reading this, take that with a huge grain of salt!). Because humans are constantly evolving it’s crucial to see a therapist from time to time to deal with life changes and to sharpen your psychological tools. The work of therapy is meaningful because if you don’t possess mental wellness, what do you really have?
Linda Esposito is a licensed clinical social worker practicing in Los Angeles, CA. She primarily works with stressed-out, sleep-deprived adults, and angry teens and their frustrated parents. She has a psychotherapy blog called WiredForHappy.com, and she writes about anxiety and wellness for The Huffington Post and Psychology Today.
See previous “This Therapist’s Life” interviews: