Being a therapist often comes with a lot of reflection and if it doesn’t for you then maybe we need to consider some time to reevaluate our duties as a clinician. No, seriously when reflecting on how I show up as a person and therapist, I am always thinking about “code switching.” As you are reading this, you may ask, what exactly is code switching? Some may also use the terms switching sides or simply just not being yourself as a clinician and human. I know this text may come foreign to some but it is important to remember who we are, what we are, and how we show up in life and with anyone we support.
During my graduate program, for the first time I was reminded how black I was in the room. I began to demean my voice, often contemplated my hairstyle choice, and looked around so many times telling myself “Sis, you do not fit the bill to be a therapist.” When it came time that I entered my practicum and internship, God and the Universe knew I needed a supervisor who was going to share a secret on code switching or not being my true self. That supervisor said to me “Dyamond why are you speaking like that in your sessions, that’s not you. You do not have to talk with a soft voice for your clients to trust you.” Ok first of all shoutout to my intern supervisor for keeping real! Second, it was necessary that lesson I learned 5-6 years ago would show up again in how I practice therapy today.
As I begun my practice as an intern clinician, I was so afraid to show up as this black therapist in front of my white clients or even too black for those who were African-American or a person of color. That’s wild, right? The very one one thing as therapists we pride ourselves on is inviting our clients to show up as their true selves, supporting their authenticity, and honoring every background they are made up of—or not if they choose. And here I was not practicing what I preach, not exploring what I encourage, not accepting what I appreciate in others. I was constantly switching sides and devaluing who I was just to be the right therapist for everyone. Let me tell you now—it is exhausting, it is disrespectful, and you deserve to be who you are no matter what and whom is in the room.
Curving my need to change up my approach with different people absolutely took and takes some time to debunk. It is not an overnight success just like many things our patients and clients sit with. If you have lived and come from a society where you are not appreciated, that at some point becomes your core belief that causes the switch. It creates the conformity or adaptation to fit the narrative. Yes, sometimes we do have to carry ourselves to show up in many places but the rule was never to switch or change who you are.
Now if you have made it this far reading, I appreciate you and if not, I still appreciate you. Whichever side they may lay, they chose to be authentically themselves. This blog post is not just for therapists navigating themselves in the therapeutic space but the human also creating a wedge between their truth and what they are believing others will appreciate them as. Imagine changing your outfit multiple times a day just to create security for the next person. Too much, right? That is exactly how it feels code switching. It requires too much with little reward. No client wants you to show up differently just because they are not the same as you. They want you to value yourself just as you do them. They want you to see yourself just as you see who they are.
As we wrap this whole essay on code switching up, what would it be like to reflect about the person you are and the individual you are becoming in life and this therapeutic space? Would it give you Grace to be yourself? Would it give you compassion knowing that you are not alone? Or would it continue to raise questions? I challenge you to show up in ways that feels right. As I continue to grow and gain expertise as a clinician, I have gained the confidence in being authentically me with everyone. If they are out here judging and do not like it, well let’s just say that is their issue and I will not allow them to project or displace it on to me. The next time you show up, show up as yourself! No more switching sides!