I clearly remember the day that I ended my relationship with the ordinary mental healthcare system. I can still vividly see the round table at the colorful headquarters of the Netherlands version of child protective services, aka ‘Jeugdplein’.
We had been working with a problematic family for almost 3 years. When, at one point, something started escalating very quickly and we rang the bell for help. You’d think that this would be seen as a sign of responsibility and professionalism, that we would collaborate and work together to help this family. But no, not with these people, not with this system, not here and not today.
Our youngest team member, one that I was specifically proud of, at one point uttered the words that haunt me to this day, he looked at the highest range Jeugdplein lady and said:
‘’I thought that this sitting would be about the interest of my client, a 10 year old and his even younger siblings? You guys have never asked about him or gave him a voice. Listen, I know that you don’t like seeing us here, I know you don’t want us to succeed, but as long as you don’t show any interest in his well-being I cannot hand him over to you with a calm heart. All we’ve been talking about for the past hour is you trying to pin the blame on us and interrogate us, when we reached out to you for their benefit, why? If you want to take them away because you dislike us, please, at least think about them. He is 10 years old! At least ask us, now that we’re still here, what kind of help they need and how we can organize that for him.”
Thinking back about this case still breaks my heart. I sit here writing this with warm pressure behind my eyes, because yes, they did take them away, and yes, they did abandon them and leave them to their own devices as they did with many of our clients. Then, they decided on a campaign against us, which honestly I couldn’t care less about, but let’s keep that for another day cracks knuckles
At this point, we were an hour into the session, and we saw where it was heading. Our case manager, who sat there taking notes, with her ever constant catted eyeliner, at one point uttered a few words that I will never forget in my life. This was the turning point in my career. That was it. The straw that broke the camel’s back. I still can’t believe this woman had the audacity to actually say it, but she did:
‘’Well,’’, she said grinning, ‘’it’s really nice that you guys take him to the cinema and all, but he really needs professional help.’’
Apparently, this cat-eyeliner-lady, let’s call her Karen, who has worked with us for almost three years, who we had many meetings with to discuss progress, who complained that our rapports of this family were too long and too dense, who witnessed that the court entrusted this family to us after one year of extensive supervising because they saw we were doing well with them, actually had the gross audacity to sit there in front of CPS and pretend that all we did was ‘’take them to the movies and such things’’.
In all those years, we took them to the movies twice as a holiday celebration, and did so out of our own money. For the entire year, every school the family had to deal with, police, court, and the entire systems that were on their case were positive about us. The Clinical Neuropsychologist that worked at Rotterdam’s finest hospital even said that he couldn’t do anything without our help, and declined the other siblings because it was ”too hard of a case” and we ”could handle them better anyway.” But that didn’t matter. As long as I worked in this field, in this country and with this system, people like cat-eyeliner Karen are going to be my boss. So I decided then and there, that. I. QUIT.
Don’t get me wrong. This story is one of celebration. Today I celebrate audacity. Because boy, did her audacious comment fire up something inside of me. The absolute last things I am going to waste are my God-given talents and contributions, and so I refused to let someone who can’t see me coming in light-years to hold me down like that ever again. Karen was in charge of the government funding for mental healthcare; she got to choose who is worthy of the budget and whether or not we got the job. I discovered that not only were people happy to pay me directly, but they were also relieved not having to deal with Karen and her team. One client I had a couple of weeks ago even said: ”You know, I could use the funding, but it’s not worth the extra psychological trauma and stress these people give you. I know what they’re like and I avoid them like fire.”
Today, I have clients from all over the world. I chose to no longer limit myself to one tiny country where the motto is ”act normal and you’ll be crazy enough as it is”, HEELLL NAAA! Have you ever seen me act normal? Do stuff in a standard way? I have not spent a cent or any second on advertising – most of you still don’t even know I take on clients! Yet, I am already needing help to handle the demand. My style as a therapist has somehow created a reputation on its own that spread like wildfire. Simply because I fired my old ‘bosses’ and got new, amazing ones: my clients. I work for you, and in the end, your opinion is what matters to me. I would have never dreamed of getting to work with people that I truly admire and wish nothing but the absolute best for in life; amazing and sincere people have replaced cat-eyeliner Karen and the likes of her.
My favorite clients have always been people who have seen a psychologist before. You see, new clients don’t know what to expect, so they are more prone to assume that my style is the standard. But those who have been in mental healthcare, gosh, I love that surprise I hear in either their response or their silence once I start talking at the end of a session. I live for that… that gasp, the shock and the new hope for life that follows.
I hope you’ve made it so far with me, because now comes the big announcement. My next chapter is one that requires more audacity and more bravery than anything I’ve ever done before. I’ve decided to publish my own novel. Not being recognized until it’s too late, has been a theme throughout my life. Therefore, I know I need to take the wheel with this and be brave.
P.S. Please know that I am not asking for donations here! The goal that I show above to cover some of the publishing, editing, and designing costs is just to motivate myself and let you know what you help me make possible when you book a session. If you really want to help me, like this Facebook page. Soon I’ll post info on how you can help me even more!
A sincere thank you to all of you who have given me this courage – I promise to work hard to multiply the share of wisdom, positivism, faith, and encouragement you all have given me, and spread it further into the world. It is my mission to democratize mental healthcare from this day forward. I am hereby announcing my new project ‘AURORA‘
P.P.S. Here is some of my favorite feedback that I have gotten 🙂