illustration by the brilliant Cranky Muse Projects

I learned yesterday that a dear friend, colleague and collaborator, Jason Evan Mihalko, Psy.D. died last week.

I first contacted Jason after I came across a stunningly brave series of essays he had written after surviving a client’s suicide, and quickly we became fellow advocates for a new kind of transparency in our profession and the value of psychotherapeutic perspectives in our national social conversation.

He was a brave, loving, radically compassionate, fierce and funny man, who will be dearly missed by the thousands of people whose lives he impacted.

But his words, at The Irreverent Psychologist should speak for him. His beautiful series of essays: “Dear Young Therapist”  remind us all of the core values that sit at the heart of this impossible profession.

And this is from my favorite of those essays:

Dear Young Therapist, Don’t be Afraid To Love.

I’m old enough to no longer care how my fellow psychologists evaluate me. I’m skilled enough to know how to wield these twin tools of relational growth and change within the safe boundaries of a therapeutic relationship.

I’m thankful that I’ve never met a patient that I couldn’t love or couldn’t learn to love. It’s from that space that I begin to see the seeds of where a person might be able to go, grow, and let go. It’s from that space that I can find the confidence to let go of wanting a patient to be something I need them to be (or society needs them to be) and let them go about finding what they need themselves to be.

Still, young therapist, I don’t frequently tell my patients that I love them. It is often dangerous and disruptive to use the word. Patients can become incredibly confused and conflicted. Too many therapists also become confused and conflicted.

Just because love is dangerous, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be thought about.

I am not afraid to love and to say that I do when a moment of genuine honesty is the best intervention. Don’t forget this, young therapist. Don’t forget that our work is built on a foundation of faith in humanity and love of the person who sits across from you.

Please go read this series and explore his blog if you haven’t.

I don’t know if this blog, What a Shrink Thinks, would exist if I hadn’t met Jason. He made me feel braver as I stuck my nose out into an online world and we made joyful noise together.

If you want to hear us gabbing and laughing our fool heads off you can listen in to the one podcast we had a chance to record before  life took a detour that derailed us.

And if you feel so moved, please consider making a donation in his memory here.

Grateful for all that he gave. Words fail me.