I was introduced to Jon DeWaal and A Liminal Space when I took a Vocation class at The Seattle School. I loved the class and the way Jon and his associate helped me think about the potential to create a career that included my personal dreams and goals (like incorporating food and cooking into group therapy). I was in the middle of a divorce after being married almost 32 years. I hadn’t worked since I’d had my first child when I was 24. I was taking one step at a time, one class at at time, and my confidence was shaky. My career had been raising my four children and I was now in my mid-50’s with no real work experience, needing to support myself. At the end of the quarter, we were given the opportunity to apply for a scholarship for ten sessions with Jon at A Liminal Space. I applied for and won a scholarship.
Jon encouraged me in our early sessions to think about my goals for business growth, professional growth, and personal growth. I was so full of doubt that I spent a lot of time telling him my fears and insecurities, not just about school and work, but also in my personal life. After each session I left feeling more hopeful and confident. I was seeing a therapist at the time but found that Jon was helping me far more to become the person I wanted to be. I talked with him many sessions about what I was going through in the divorce process, or with my kids, or in my internship, and there were lots of tears. He helped me realize this was all a part of building my vocation – knowing myself at a deeper level and being able to name my strengths as well as my weaknesses.
One of the most impactful sessions was when Jon loaned me The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis. He asked me to read a section about a character named Puddleglum who was not a very confident person but who exhibited immense courage to fight an evil spell, even though it was painful for him to do. It was exactly what I needed to read and to embrace, as I had begun to realize my focus as a therapist was going to be on domestic violence and trauma. I didn’t feel brave or confident, but Jon helped me see myself as I was – someone who did have courage and who was willing to put myself out to help my clients recognize the subtle and not so subtle dimensions of domestic violence, abuse, and trauma. I gained confidence as I volunteered at the Washington Corrections Center for Women, teaching Domestic Violence 101 and 102 and meeting one on one with incarcerated women who had experienced domestic violence. I also spoke at a fundraiser for Northwest Family Life in front of 200 people. I never in a million years thought I would speak publicly!
After graduation, my desire was to start my own private practice. Jon was instrumental in helping me decide what my website should include, how to find office space to rent, how to advertise and build connections and how much to charge. I had so much self-doubt, but he changed that. For example, he convinced me that my age was actually an asset, not a detriment. He helped me identify my strengths and gain self confidence. He connected me with a wonderful person who helped create my website and design my intake forms. Having him support me each step of the way was instrumental in my success.
I started out thinking I might have 3 or 4 clients per week, but very quickly I was seeing 12 to 20 clients per week. I had a hard time charging enough for my services, but Jon helped me think like a business person, not just a compassionate therapist. He asked me to name what I wanted and needed to make financially my first year. I gave him a number and laughed because I thought it would never happen, but it not only happened – I made more my first year than the goal I had set for myself. Most importantly, I love my career and I have “grown up” into the person I never thought I could be. An added bonus is that I have been able to encourage others who are just starting out as therapists, or who are in the middle of an unexpected life event like divorce. I love that my story can give others hope.
I would encourage anyone who is feeling stuck or hopeless in the middle of a life transition they never thought they’d go through to not try and figure it out alone. Don’t limit yourself – transitions are a time to discover things about yourself you never imagined. I highly recommend A Liminal Space as part of your journey!