“We are ruined.” A fellow Allender Center teacher recently spoke these words as our staff wrapped up a conversation over breakfast. In discussing our personal therapy, we concluded that the therapists we most admired, and would most like to receive counseling from, were often already colleagues or friends. We arrived at the paradox of our unique form of exile—the more we connect with like-minded folks the more limited our choice of therapists to work with becomes. If there is a standing theme of being a therapist and training other therapists, it is the waxing and waning of exile.
As a therapist, my work involves stepping into people’s lives in a search for the exiled and despised portions of their story, that they might discover and embrace blessing. This work is often done in a one on one setting where we join together, but inevitably we must part. The work sets up the leaving from the first moment. To be of any help, I must know the look, feel, taste, odor and sound of exile. Daily, I am reacquainted with it as my clients exit my office and I return home with tales of both exile and return which ethics, law and good self-care mandate that I keep to myself. In the context of supervision and consultation groups, I am able to share the glorious, desperate and confusing moments of therapy. But it is always in the context of exiles joining together to be of support rather than an ever-present community.
This experience of exile has been ever-present as I have traveled with The Allender Center staff to St. Louis, for the Advanced Counseling Certificate. My journey always begins with several of the teaching staff coming together to share a ride to the airport. Then at the gate, we meet up with the rest of our team. The coming together is wonderful and there is much to share. A day of travel brings us to St. Louis where we make our way to the hotel. I usually see a couple of the participants in my learning group and greet them—more exiles gathered together. Finally, the first morning brings everyone together for the large group teaching and the small group interaction—a full communion of exiles. Knowing that this is not a natural state on this earth, we soak this up. As the teaching and experiences both fill up and exhaust us over four days, the time to part approaches, and the earlier process reverses: I part with the participants, enjoy a last day of conversation, play and travel with the staff before bidding adieu near the baggage claim, and then a quick drive home. It is so good to be home. And yet I can only narrate to my wife but a fraction of what I’ve seen, known, spoken and received while I was away. My vocation as a therapist has brought every sinew and synapse of my body into deeper contact with exile and brought a greater hunger for Heaven—a place where confidentiality will not be a factor as we rejoice, grieve and brag on each other with gusto.