Five Journeys, Part III

Click here to Five Journeys, One Destination ~ Part Three in the Therapist Magazine.

  • Levis, R.V. (2013). Five Journeys, One Destination: Part Three. The Therapist, 25(6), 26-34.

Welcome to the third and final part of this journey towards licensure.

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.”

StairwayIt was Martin Buber’s famous quote that set us off on the first part of our journey in the July/August issue. We were introduced to the five dauntless travelers from Argentina, India, Czech Republic, California and Massachusetts who recounted their aspirations, their struggles and their hero’s journey that earned them three precious letters at the end of their names: MFT. In homage to Martin Buber, and in support of those who are just beginning to walk that path, they also shared with us their secret destination on the road to licensure. While Kristina laid out the map and the territory, Laura shared with us how to be a tourist in your own land, reminding us to feast on the rich and eclectic immersion in the human experience that Nicole so ably described. Veronika’s passionate commitment to her personal transformation process shone through her writing and Rajani tackled the taboo topic of burnout, while discovering a secret destination that brought her full circle to her country of origin, all the while taking the scenic route to licensure.

five travelersIn Part Two, the travelers went from secret destinations to the nuts and bolts of the journey. They sat down with us to discuss the most reviled part of the licensure process – the standard written and the clinical vignette examinations. The five of them provided answers to our burning questions including how long it took each of them to collect their 3000 hours and of course, how long they studied for the exams. From bananas for natural beta blockers to the evidence-based practice of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), from meditation to study buddies who cook a good meal, we got the low-down on a range of supportive strategies for the exam prep stage. We also heard about the timing that works for busy schedules, as well as how to beat procrastination, anxiety and frustration, which seem to be a natural part of the process. In addition, the travelers reiterated their commitment to supporting prelicensees in a variety of ways; pre-exam EMDR for performance enhancement and anxiety reduction, reduced fee personal therapy as well as mentorship. It sounds like a great roadside assistance package for prelicensees, and it comes with Walt Whitman’s reminder about the destination: “It is not far. It is within reach.”

Brighton bandstandIn this concluding section, the five travelers invite us into what was once hallowed ground for them as prelicensees – their own private practice. They offer us a glimpse into the joys and challenges of this coveted terrain. Their voices echo the importance of being patient and present, remaining curious about ourselves, engaging in continuing growth work, and building supportive community. We invite you to, once again, join our intrepid travelers as they discover that the integration of one’s personal and professional identity is the next phase of this journey.

The third and final part of Five Journeys, One Destination pays homage to Henry Miller’s words:“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”

Thanks for the ugly packages!

By Rajani Venkatraman Levis

There is only one journey, the journey inside yourself – Rainer Maria Rilke

rajani_officeLast week, as I was sitting in my big comfy therapist chair, I found myself moved by how suddenly a journey can come full circle. I had sat with more than one client that day who unwittingly reminded me of a great truth: The gifts that shape our lives often arrive in surprisingly ugly packages!

The First Ugly Package

Ten years ago, I had sat on the other side of a similar room, shaking as I cried my way through my words. Six months into my very first practicum, a client’s sudden psychotic break had resulted in grievous physical and emotional harm to me. As an immigrant who lived alone, I felt the severe lack of social support that exacerbated my symptoms of acute stress from this trauma. I am certain that during my session that week, my therapist could not hear my words through the sobs, but I felt held by his compassion. He recommended some adjunct sessions of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) to help me through this initial critical phase. I wasn’t sure about tagging on this additional expense to my carefully budgeted and infinitely precious student loan check, but I was desperate for help, so I agreed.

Flash forward ten years, and here I was sitting in a room with a young college student who had just survived a mugging that left him battered in mind, body and spirit. Not only am I now certified in the evidence-based approach that helped me, I also have the benefit of having been on both sides of the room.

Today, I am sought out by clients with developmental and severe trauma. I feel blessed to sit with clients who remind me of the strength and resilience each one of us holds inside. I know that reaching out for help was not easy for me, and I am ever reminded of the honor our clients bestow upon us, by trusting us with their most intimate pain. Each client’s ability to seek and receive help, especially during a challenging, is a constant inspiration.

The Second Ugly Package

The second package arrived in the shape of vicarious trauma and burnout. It had only been six months since I graduated. I could still remember how grateful/hopeful/relieved I felt as I walked across the stage at commencement, knowing that I had gotten through the hurdle of graduate school, including a brutal initiation into the field (see the first ugly package), and had secured a paid position where I could continue to accrue hours towards licensure. I had about half of the required 3000 hours, and a very supportive supervisor. So it was incomprehensible, even to me, when I felt like I just couldn’t go on.

I knew that my limited capacity for self-care wasn’t keeping pace with my need, and I knew I needed a break. I was in the midst of a crisis of faith, a cultural identity crisis, and an existential crisis, all of which was sped along by the financial crisis of being a lowly MFT intern. I felt the call of my homeland and with the encouragement of my supervisor, decided to heed the call.

Beginning from the place of fear, overwhelm, and uncertainty, I slowly gathered the courage to explore this unfamiliar terrain – no job, no plans, no goals, no income and a whole heap of other unknowns. In order to navigate this new landscape, I had no choice but to honor my own truth and listen to the wisdom of my body. As I opened up in trust, the road began to open up in front of me. The secret destination on that journey was bringing my Western training to setting up a mental health clinic in India. It turned out that this was exactly where I needed to be, in order to distill and integrate my experiences of East and West, of theory and practice, of head and heart. And all of a sudden, I was, once again, after a break of three years, accumulating the rest of my hours towards licensure.

Looking back, two of the most challenging events in my life turned out to be pivotal in shaping my career as a therapist. Today, I am grateful for all the blessings that came forth from the first ugly package- I am a certified EMDR therapist who specializes in trauma and hopes to be an EMDRIA approved Consultant in the near future.

cropped-DSCN1191.jpgAs I revisit the second ugly package, all my inner and outer journeys begin to make sense; I needed to travel far and wide so I could make friends with the no-woman’s land inside of me. I had to learn to love the ugly packages, so their inner beauty could reveal itself to me. In this process, I learned to deeply trust my inner guidance because only wisdom that is distilled in our own crucible is fully available to us.

These days, at the university and in my private practice, individually and in groups, I feel privileged to sit with the hopes, fears, pain and confusion of my clients, colleagues, and my prelicensed colleagues-in-training. In other words, I welcome their ugly packages with compassion and gratitude, so that their true gifts may be revealed in time.

As I wrap up this third and final part of Five Journeys, One Destination, I would like to share one of my father’s favorite quotes in homage to you, my colleagues:

It is one of the beautiful compensations of life, that no man can sincerely help another without helping himself.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

As my fellow travelers will attest, we have been immeasurably and beautifully compensated by this opportunity to share our journeys with you.

Rajani Venkatraman Levis, MS, MFT, PPS
415 683 1008

The idea for “Five Journeys, One Destination” was born out of an essay that Rajani wrote as a prelicensee back in 2004 titled “Are We There Yet?”

RVL bambooAs a University lecturer, workshop presenter and as a therapist in private practice, Rajani often encounters prelicensees who are thirsty for first-hand information about the journey to licensure. Recently, she invited four of her colleagues to share their lively and multifaceted perspectives on this important rite of passage for therapists. In addition to being a Certified EMDR therapist, Rajani runs a group called “Identities Beyond Boundaries,” which supports prelicensees in exploring the topics touched on in this three part series and everything else that shows up.

Rajani warmly welcomes questions, comments and feedback from prelicensees (and others) via email at therapy [at] levistherapy [dot] com