In the early nineteen-eighties, when I was in my twenties, my older brother suggested I went to see someone at the Tavistock Insititute in London. I think he had been seeing a therapist there on and off over the years. He had always kept an elder sibling's eye on me and he could see I was in trouble.
It sounded so scary to me: I had no idea what psychotherapy was all about or what I might be walking into; but I was desperate and adventurous and telephoned to make an appointment. They suggested I sent a letter telling them a little about myself and my reasons for wanting to see someone.
In my enthusiasm I duly sent a thirty-something page hand-written letter baring my soul. It seemed ages before the appointment came around, but suddenly it did. One evening after work I mounted my trusty bicycle and furiously pedalled my way across London, through driving rain and dark and shiny streets.
Anxious as all hell I eventually found the place, and in due course I was sitting in a small room with a man a few years my elder. He wore tight dark blue jeans and a crushed velvet purple jacket of some description. In the afterwardsness of it, I remember him seeming dark and gypsy-like, pleasant and a little mysterious. He reminded me of some of my brother's exotic university friends.
He had my letter with him and I vaguely recall trying to tell him something of my agony and despair. I don't remember much detail except for the ending: He shook my hand at the end of our fifty minutes and said it had been a pleasure to meet me.
As I look back over the intervening thirty-something years, I think what a difference it might have made to my life if that pleasant young man had suggested it would be a good idea for me to come back and see him again. Perhaps he did do this and I have forgotten, but I don't think so. Perhaps it just seemed impossible to return, but I don't think so.
If I had entered psychotherapy or psychoanalysis at that time it would have saved me, and some of the people close to me over the years, a lot of grief and several difficult false starts. It seems hard to believe now that back then I had been on the threshold of serious therapeutic endeavour and I had had no idea!
I often reflect on this when I am with someone who does not necessarily know what their options are and what is on offer when they come to speak with me. I have a responsibility to present them with a window into what is possible and what is available. To make the most of whatever twist of fate has brought them to my door and hold that door open to them in such a way they know they have a choice.