Poisoned Wells

practitioner parables

By Robert Chute

Originally published in Massage & Bodywork magazine, September/October 2008.

Once upon a time a young sorcerer set out to find his fortune. No one knew him and each village turned him away. One night he slept fitfully in a dark wood. At dawn he awoke to the presence of an old man wearing the ancient sorcerer’s robes. “I will give you work so you can exercise your magic and grow strong. I know a village where your talents are needed. When I retire, take my place.”

The apprentice was delighted. With a wave of his wand the old man transported his new friend to a mountain retreat that overlooked a lush valley. “The villagers below are my friends,” the old man said. “Treat them well and they will be your friends, too.”

The apprentice was at first industrious and happy in his work, but on the fifth day he complained he wasn’t busy enough. “You haven’t brought me enough people to work on. I thought there would be more people!”

“Very well,” the old wizard said and he brought people from outlying villages.

On the eighth day the young sorcerer complained, “This is too many people! I can’t work this long without rest!”

“Very well,” the wizard replied. “I will bring fewer people.”

On the tenth day the apprentice cried, “I need time to myself! Leave me alone!” He wandered into the wilderness. “I’m getting better every day,” he said to himself. “The old wizard doesn’t appreciate me. Those people should bring me more tribute!”

Lost in his thoughts, he looked back and realized he was far from home. Shivering, he sat on a stump, reluctant to journey through the night alone.

At last the old wizard appeared. “Ah, good!” said the apprentice. “Take me back.”

“Wake up!” said the old man. “I gave you all the help I could, but you weren’t happy. Now it’s your turn to find your way just as I did long ago.”

And So It Is

Veteran therapists often complain they are too busy. Young therapists are envious. The trouble starts when conflicting expectations are left unspoken.

New therapists often expect their new clientele to be handed to them. There are situations where new grads can hook up with a successful mentor and quickly have a full schedule. When it’s a good match, it can be fantastic. However, these fortuitous setups are rare.

Real world example: a young therapist joins an existing practice. The veteran therapist wants to foster the grad’s talent and makes an offer. “Work rent-free and instead use the money you save to take an agreed-upon course to complement my practice.”

The grad agrees, but soon demonstrates a haphazard work ethic and never takes the course. One day, without warning, the newcomer disappears.

It’s tragic and fairly common. These two needed a written business agreement. The mentor needed to charge something so the benefits provided are valued. Too late, the young therapist appreciates the former, rent-free working environment.

And what did the practice owner learn? Unfortunately, of the several therapists who have told me this story, they all came to the same conclusion: the well was poisoned and they would not be so generous in the future.