How to Be a Therapist Who is Also a Love Revolutionary

I am borrowing the phrase ‘love revolutionary,’ from Valarie Kaur, a remarkable civil rights activist who recently published her new book, See No Evil with Sounds True and founded The Revolutionary Love Project, which inspires and equips people to ground their lives and social justice work in revolutionary love. To paraphrase one of her comments in her recent interview with Tami Simon on Sounds True, love has always been radical and dangerous. It has always threatened to overturn societal systems and the “powers that be”. Just look at the lives of so many of the people who dedicated themselves to revolutionary love. I really don’t love that I have to write this, but they often meet an untimely end, or even some form of violent oppression or suppression by those who fear the change potential wrapped into their revolutionary message.

It got me thinking about love in the therapy relationship, and what it’s like to be a therapist who honestly, deeply, genuinely just wants to love people. “Love” is something of a dirty word in the therapy and mental health worlds. As we get trained up in our internships and in grad school, often we are told to respond to a client telling us they love us with something like, “And I really appreciate you, too.” It would be considered a boundary violation (within the current style of thinking) to do otherwise. However, I also once listened to an interview with adult attachment specialist and therapist, Diane Poole Heller, who boldly stated that, we don’t call it “love,” but she believes that love is absolutely what we are doing in the therapy relationship (to paraphrase her as well). I agree with her. I believe this is part of what really helps people heal. To feel loved.

Does that mean I am going to sit across from each of my therapy clients and tell them that I love them? No, probably not. But I will love them and radiate that and talk about it in a broad, indirect way (like I’m doing here). I have loved every single person with whom I’ve ever had the privilege of being in any kind of helping or healing relationship. I recognize that, even today, this would be considered a bit of a radical or “racy” thing for a therapist to say. Okay. I prefer the pain of accepting possible (probable) judgment as I share things like this to the pain of staying closed, staying behind a wooden mask. I know a possible response to that might be, “Well, it’s not about you”. A more humanist approach would say, yes, it’s not about me, AND there are two human beings in the room. I am not a chat bot.

It occurs to me I should add that Saskrit has 96 words for love, Persian has 80, Greek has three. In English, we have only one. So it can be cause for all kinds of confusion. I don’t mean that I “romantically love” any of my clients. I hold a very classic therapist line there. I am talking about more of an “agape” love. A love for my fellow human. This is such a fierce journey for all of us, and there is almost certainly always pain underneath the surface that you cannot see. And that deserves compassion, and agape love.

I am going to be expanding into sharing clinically-informed content in other forms and in other spaces where the hat I’m wearing is not necessarily “therapist” and I am going to talk about love until I’m dead in all of those spaces. So talking about it on my therapy private practice page is just my way of ensuring coherence, consistency, and authenticity between and among these various projects.

Lastly, this means that I bring my own, true passion for social justice into the way I work, and that I ensure all of my efforts and energies expended in that endeavor are grounded in revolutionary love. And I want to spend my life inviting others to join me. It’s actually selfish, y’all! Being dipped into love as often as you can feels good. Drop a comment below or reach out if you’re curious about this.

Until next time,
Stay centered in love and compassion,

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