Spotting Your Therapist In Real Life: What to Do

Spotting Your Therapist In Real Life: What to Do

Beth Bishop, LCSW

Imagine this: you're at trivia night at a coffee shop in the neighborhood, surrounded by friends and a hot cup of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe (also known as coffee). As you scan the room for the next trivia answer, your eyes lock onto a table nearby. Lo and behold, your therapist is sitting RIGHT THERE. She knows all about the saga between you and your friend on the left. Awkward much?

Fast forward to another scenario. You're out shopping with your mother-in-law, braving the aisles of household chaos. Suddenly, you turn into another aisle only to find your therapist carefully choosing a rug. She looks up, and your MIL innocently asks, "Is that a friend?"

Or there's the unexpected encounter during a shoreline clean-up volunteering gig. You're all geared up to save the world, only to be assigned to a group of 6 strangers for the day. But wait, one of them is your therapist. Plot twist!

What to do in these wild therapist sightings?

The answer is as simple. You're the protagonist of this story. You can choose to pretend you didn't see your therapist, react as you would to any random stranger, or even introduce them to your companions as your long-lost friend or eccentric acquaintance. Hey, you can even go all-in and proudly announce them as your therapist.

Your therapist, being the professional they are, will gracefully follow your lead. No sudden introductions or awkward personal chit-chat involved. They will not say, “ Oh is THIS your mother-in-law???” Your secrets are safe.

Sure, seeing your therapist in the wild can be a tad bizarre. It's like that time you bumped into your 2nd-grade teacher buying yogurt and peas at the grocery store—it's a reminder that they're just regular folks outside of their professional realm.

It might even be a bit unsettling to realize the humanity behind the person who helps you navigate life's ups and downs. I mean, seriously, are those really the shoes she wears outside the therapy room? And if she fumbles on "Norwegian artist Edvard Munch is famous for painting which iconic piece?" (The Scream), can she really be trusted with the emotional rollercoaster of your life?

These are all valid ponderings, perfect topics for your next therapy session. Because let's face it, therapy is your space to unpack these unexpected encounters and everything else life throws at you.

But for now, as your therapist looks up and your eyes meet, it's your show. Dealer’s choice. How do you want to play it? You get to decide.