My journey to becoming a therapist began with my social activism in undergrad. I thought that I wanted to be a human rights lawyer, was pre-law and had a huge argumentative streak. Little did I know that that my brash streak was what was going to turn me toward therapy. I felt that the system needed to change and still do. I decided that law was not going to be as satisfying for me and turned to the field of Social Work to find answers!
I began my Master’s at the University of Chicago in 2003 with community organizing and administration in mind. This decision was fueled by my want to change how society treated people who did not fit in with the norms of how everyone should be. I, myself, did not feel that being told who you should be is healthy or respectful to whom one actually is. What about our insecurities are created through this notion of who someone should be and behave?
The first year of my program two things happened. One was I had several classes on social justice, how the field of Social Work evolved, and the dynamic ways people before me strove to change a broken or, in many cases, non-existent system. Two was that the first year of the program was solely clinical. This was to ensure that those of us wanting to extend into the administrative space of Social Work had some clinical and therapeutic foundations to do so appropriately. This second point threw me. This meant seeing clients. I saw my first client in the Fall of 2003. My first client changed everything for me. I had my first internship at a non-profit agency, located in the suburbs of Chicago. I was not supposed to see her as a client, but a mix up with reception gave her to me, rather than the experienced therapist she was scheduled to see. I told myself, “I can do this!” I was terrified I was going to make
horrible mistakes. I sat with the client, she had just been discharged from the hospital for suicidal ideation and psychosis. This was completely out of my wheelhouse at the time. I remembered that all I needed to do in that session was gather information for the initial meeting, listen and reflect. Following the session, my supervisor decided that I should keep her as a client.
I learned more working with my first client than any class I was taking at the time. I was hired on by the agency following my internship and followed my client, this amazingly strong woman, for two years. She changed my view of what I really wanted to do with my professional life and made me aware of my connection to therapy and supporting others in their lives on a more personal basis. The second year of my Masters’ furthered my ambitions with concentrations in
Psychodynamic and CBT theories. I continued my training in DBT, Family Systems and Brief/ Single-session therapy, among others.
Over ten years later, looking back, I am surprised that I didn’t make more mistakes than I did starting out. All people have beautiful and, at times, painful stories that shape who they are. I have worked with clients with severe mental illness, domestic violence, adolescents, families, couples, individuals, and within therapeutic school settings. I am thankful to my clients who have opened up about their lives and stories to me over the last decade.
~Amira Lodhi, MSW, LCSW, RSW (Clinical)