Chapter 16: Therapy For All, What If?

Philanthropy.

This is the name of the store I found myself wandering down the aisles of in Franklin, TN , before I found my way to Teri’s door that day. My friend, Ronne, has talked about often since we’ve known each other. Home to The Giving Keys, our favorite candles, gypsy clothes which wrap you in their romantic layers, and products created to fund many different causes around the world.

I had forgotten it existed until I tripped over it on the way out of Starbucks. The thing which completely took me by surprise was the wall of prayers. It is covered in hooks and handwritten tags. Each tag has a someone’s fear or trauma or desire written on it in the form of a prayer. Some are simple, others are complex.

On this earth there are sacred places, but they are not always where you expect to find them. You do not walk out of Philanthropy without leaving your prayer and taking a prayer. If that is not a deep practical act of worship then I have never seen one. There amidst the candles, fabric, and copper chains, I saw God’s face in those hundreds of paper tag prayers. I left one and chose one and walked out; that sacred place moment was breathing in me when I arrived at Teri Murphy’s doorstep.

She welcomed me in with a hug and a blanket to wrap around my freezing shoulders. We sat across the kitchen table from each other sipping shots of Jack Honey and she told me her story. As she did, she took a selection of crayons and began drawing words on a page. I was so entranced with her story, I paid no attention to the sentence that was forming on the white sheet before her. She handed it to me. “Here. These words are for you. They feel right.”

“You. Are. So. Worth. Loving.”

Now you know who Teri Murphy is. This is what we dreamed up.

Melissa: Tell me what you’re working on.

Teri: I just wrapped up a book and I’m now reviewing it. Especially the chapter about connecting with self. I’m looking at what does it mean to be a self? What does it mean to be a spiritual an emotional being? That’s not a trait. That changes over time. How do we stay connected through brokenness, through trauma, through stories, through transitions that naturally happen in life and through unexpected things? I have a real heart for shame and trauma and what that looks like in adulthood. Mainly I work with women. That’s what I see in my practice but I hope to expand it to both male and female.

Melissa: So you’re revisiting Connect (her book) and you’re also getting your PhD.

Teri: Yes, Chris [her husband] and I joke that I have been connecting people and dots since the year that I was born. I feel like I go into these iterative cycles of going into the literature and learning and wanting to go deeper into the science of things. Like why do these things matter. But in writing about it, it usually brings some crap up in me too. Things I have to work through and process. In the back of my head I’m always wondering why does this matter? We see it in the research. We know that it’s true but why does it matter? How can it actually help people? Especially if the themes are coming up in my practice, in myself, in my friends, on social media, in the research, then usually there is something there.

I almost feel like a dryer on the inside. The ideas tumble and tumble and then something usually comes out of that. That’s kind of where I am with my PhD. I’m studying specifically Marriage and Family Therapy, so it’s more of a systemic approach. It’s looking at how we’re all connected. In studying one person, you really have to study the whole; everything they’re connected to. For me, that isn’t just relationship with other people, it’s my relationship with myself, my relationship with God, and my relationship with others.

I also have my practice where I do emotionally focused therapy (EFT).

Melissa: Would you ever be willing to do virtual therapy?

Teri: With couples it might be hard, I feel like not being in the room I might miss something. If I could keep people safe, I might consider it. It’s a huge topic right now in the psychology world.

Melissa: I know many people in my life who are in search of therapists. It’s hard for them to find someone they can trust and someone who is a good fit. And they travel a lot.

Teri: It makes me curious. If there is a way to connect, feel that connection with people, even while traveling…there are logistical issues with being in the office every week, especially if you have a job that moves you around. If there was a way of monitoring it; oxygen sensors, heart monitors, if you could really see faces and monitor that and really pick up on some of that stuff, and see your therapist too and connect in that way. It’s a great area of research…like a virtual reality place where you could meet.

Melissa: I wonder what would be lost in translation…

Teri: I don’t know. I’m not sure how much of it is a physical presence.

Melissa: Because I think there is something about being tangibly present. There’s something about sitting with someone and looking in their eyes. You capture something you can’t any other way.

Teri: I would love for it to be possible. Can you imagine the people you reach around the world in that way? I feel like therapy should be accessible and available for everybody.

Melissa: Can you imagine what kind of organization you could create if you could make a therapy that was useful and accessible to all? Where you could offer it?

I was just having this conversation with one of my other dreamers, Branden Harvey, and he told me about an organization he worked with in Uganda called Beauty for Ashes. They work with these women who have survived genocide. They have such deep wounds but they’re raising villages of children by themselves pretty much and the few men left carry such a weight of responsibility. What if you could create an organization where you could make that kind of therapy available and accessible to people like that across the world? What if that was a possibility?

Teri: It could be life changing.

Melissa: It could be world changing. It would change the way people interact with their family units, with society. Because it’s a whole system.

Teri: Now my engineering mind is online. How to make that a reality, how to keep people safe, how to be ethical…meet them where they are.

The conversation continued. This in an excerpt of what our dreaming minds came up with. We want to hear your thoughts.