A letter to a young therapist.

Jess Semaan
4 min readMay 28, 2020


First day I saw patients as a therapist trainee

You woke up one morning, with the same pain chirping in your chest. You had no name for it because you had never spoken of it. Until you met her. She heard your pain without needing to speak it, or explain it, or illustrate it. She sat there unafraid in the face of your terror. She held you in her gaze. Until the tears flowed. She never asked you to explain. She wanted to be there with you anyway. She was the first one that saw you. She gave you what you did not know existed. Safety and love. Together. At the same time.

From her couch to your flat. You walked. And often thought. Can I give the gift she has given me, to another me? Roaming in the world, with an invisible weight on their chest? A purgatory in their head? Can I? You asked, and pondered.

And in these moments, know that you have already become a therapist.

You see, there are thousands of theories, and millions of papers, and countless voices that will explain, chart, analyze the nature of healing. But the real school of the soul, is the work of your own soul. The universe of the feelings, and the being, and the suffering does not operate like you were taught. That where there is a discomfort, you need to find something that fixes it. It is non-linear and bathed in mystery. It is anti-system and revolutionary.

If you decide to follow the call, you will need to be ready to see the injustice in you. The oppressor in you. You must learn your shadow corner by corner. Inch by inch. Marry your shadow, for it is a lifetime union. Remember that the person lying on the couch in front of you, needs you to hold the suffering with them. And if you do not see it in you, you will re-injure them.
Do not come to me, if you will deny your greed, rage, envy, lust, sloth and gluttony. The world does not need another half soul, preaching goodness and light where the other half is closing her eyes on racism, war crimes and abuse.

Kill the savior in you. You won’t save anyone. And deep within, no one wants you to save them. There is no saving because there is no loss. Prepare to integrate. To make space for people’s pieces to come together and make their own magic way back into the world. That neither you nor your patient know what that magic will be. Relax into watching the process unfold. And make notice of the anxiety that drives you to fix. It will come up a million times. And you will learn to soothe it.

Prepare to feel all the feelings at the same time on the same day. Despair, love, joy, boredom, hate, anxiety, shame, dissociation. And prepare to make time for yourself to release. And decipher what is yours and what is theirs. You will need your own space, your own rituals, and your own non-therapist friends. You are still human, don’t let psychological analysis seduce you on your days off.

You will be disappointed by theories. Many days you will doubt them all together. You will doubt it all, because you will see they failed for you. And that is an integral part of the formation. To watch the learning crumble into reality your ultimate experience and your ultimate teacher. Freud will be wrong. And Jung will be wrong. And your favorite teacher will be wrong. And the truth is, no one has ever been able to explain the inner world. But your patients will be your greatest teachers. Listen to their bodies, listen to their words. Trust them like you trusted your teacher. Even more, trust them more. For they carry their medicine in their venom. And watch the greatest unexpected life stories unfold in front of your eyes. And sit in awe of the inner healer in each one of us. Each one of them.

Being a therapist won’t shelter you from your pain. The expertise won’t fight the collective demons. You will befriend the demons. And sing with the angels. And welcome new visitors. Your house will get an upgrade but it will be the same house.

Think twice before you jump into this vocation. If you are doing it solely for the money, it won’t work. If you are doing solely for fame, it won’t work. If you are doing it for your parents, it won’t work. You will know this is it, when you find yourself sitting in a room with a stranger. Fifty minutes pass. And you come back the next day. And the day after. And despite the boredom or the hate or the confusion or the sleepiness you will still show up and do it, because of love. Because you will remember how it felt the first time she saw you. Your therapist saw you. And it will all be worth it.

I leave you with Charles Bukowski’s words:

when it is truly time,

and if you have been chosen,

it will do it by

itself and it will keep on doing it

until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.

PS: I graduated psychotherapy school! When I started writing on Medium, four years ago, i had no idea the path will take me to where I am today.