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I didn’t set out to be a therapist to the stars, so to speak. Far from it, actually. I never understood the appeal of celebrities and never wanted to work with them. To me, as I am sure to many others, celebrities seemed like aliens, inhabitants of a world and a culture that was entirely foreign. There is a reason why trashy magazines devote entire sections to trying to prove that celebrities are “just like us”…because they aren’t. Normal people don’t need to prove that they shop at Target, put gas in their cars, or eat at McDonald’s. I’ve done all those things in the past week and no one seemed to take notice. Because they are different than me, I have never known what to do with them. For a person who spends her life and makes her living talking to people, I have no idea what to say when I encounter someone famous.

Living in Las Vegas, I have seen and met a small share of celebrities over the years and our meetings always seems to go the same way. We approach and something along the lines of “Oh, you’re Channing Tatum!” comes out of my mouth. Once he confirms that he is, indeed, Channing Tatum, I am out of things to say. What does one say to Channing Tatum? Should I talk to him like a friend? Tell him about the really cool table I scored at a garage sale last week for $10? Should I talk to him like a client? Ask him about his childhood and how it makes him feel? In the end, I smile awkwardly and hope someone else is there to jump in. Aside from us both knowing who Channing Tatum is, I doubt we have much in common. Being around these people always manages to make me feel awkward and insecure rather than excited, so I tend, most of the time, to ignore them entirely.

When I became a therapist, I pictured myself as a champion of the downtrodden, helping those in need and making a difference. Famous people never fit into that equation for me. Naïve as it may have been, I just assumed that their problems would be inconsequential and shallow. I couldn’t picture myself transitioning from hearing about the plights of homelessness to the plights of choosing which $3,000 dress to wear to the Grammy’s (the fact that I have zero idea how much a dress for the Grammy’s costs should probably only underscore that I was ill-equipped to work with these people).

But sadly, the thing that made me different also made me desperate, namely, my lack of disposable income. Despite working as a therapist at a homeless shelter for 12 years, the transition to private practice had been difficult and it was challenging to build up consistent clients. I was slowly dipping into my savings just to afford my share of the rent on a modest 2-bedroom apartment. My roommate, Jackie, was the one who suggested I pursue a different type of clientele. Jackie was working as a promoter for Planet Hollywood and, at the time, was working with an artist who was, to put it kindly, a bit unstable. The artist had been keeping in touch with a long-term therapist back home but wanted someone to meet with her twice a week while she was working on her show in Vegas. I groaned my usual complaints about celebrities, but eventually, after taking a long hard look at my bank account, I acquiesced, telling myself that it would only be for a limited time, and it would be better money than I had been making.

Slowly but surely, my name began getting passed around the entertainment circuit and I became the go-to for musicians and entertainers who needed a little piece of sanity (and confidentiality) while caught up in the Vegas whirlwind. Slowly, I began to see another side of the people I worked with, saw their flaws, heard their stories, wiped away their tears. As much as I would like to credit my therapy skills, I realize that probably my greatest asset was my ability to keep my mouth shut. Once word got around that I wasn’t going to be paid off by tabloids or spread the juicy details of their lives through my inner circle (turns out my dog, Misty, wasn’t that interested in celebrity gossip, anyway), people opened up to me and found a confidant. My general lack of self-serving interest in the fabulous intricacies of fame and seeming inability to be starstruck seemed to be a benefit in this setting. Plus, being able to charge Los Angeles prices for out of town celebrities wasn’t too shabby for my bank account.

I was sitting on the couch watching a romantic comedy on Netflix and eating caramel corn one night after work when Jackie walked in. She threw down her bag on the chair next to me and said with a giddy smile, “you’ll never guess what I’ve got for you!”

“Ooh, another client?”

“Yes, and you’re going to die when I tell you who it is”.

I rolled my eyes at her. “I doubt I will die. I’ve been doing this for a while now and I haven’t drooled on any clients yet”.

“Okay”, she smiled, “but don’t say I didn’t warn you. It’s a good one”. She laid a piece of paper down on the table and walked behind me toward the kitchen. I sighed, pulling myself to a sitting position and leaning from the couch to reach the paper on the coffee table. I unfolded it and felt my heart skip a beat and my eyes widen.