People have asked me many times what our group is looking for when bringing on helping professionals who will represent us in the community. My answer is often surprising to people. “Give me the moderately confident therapist every day of the week.”
Research shows that true subject matter experts usually only ever achieve a moderate amount of confidence in their craft. Where as people with exceptionally high levels of confidence actually make more mistakes. This is because subject matter experts truly grasp, understand and respect the gravity and complexity of what they are undertaking.
I have sat in countless group and individual clinical supervisions in my 20 years in the field. I’ve observed an interesting trend during that time. The therapists who questioned if they were “doing enough” for their clients or repeatedly used supervision time to ask for help and learn new ways to approach a client’s symptoms…had the highest praise and best outcomes from their clients. The message I take from this is simple: This is a chronically humbling profession, and those who can appreciate and own that: are the most skilled. Not having that awareness leads to cockiness and less future learning.
So if you are any type of helping professional (e.g. nurse, PT, OT, NP, MD) who feels unsure at times about your craft, know you are not alone. SO many times in sessions I become aware that while I am helping a client navigate being more confident, compassionate and empowered in their own lives; I’m working on those same lessons myself. Throw in there a geopolitical climate riddled with uncertainty and fear and you the perfect recipe for self doubt and anxiety. Acknowledge and thank those sensations when you can. They are part of what makes a good therapist become great. Don’t confuse confidence with prowess. Be a compassionate human first, with yourself and your clients, above all else.
Self Compassion is much like medication. You can know Tylenol will help with the headache, you can even have it on hand....BUT IT ONLY WORKS IF YOU TAKE THE MEDICINE.
Being a human is really friggin hard. Don't just tell others that you know you need to be kinder to yourself...actually, intentionally behave that way.
There is a significant difference between knowing something is helpful and actually experiencing it being so.
Over the past year I have come across so many Memes related to people's experience in therapy. The humor in them is important as it often normalizes the therapy process. It also provides an opportunity for people to see that the use of humor is a wonderful tool in our work. Below are some of the best I have seen, many shared by colleagues and clients of mine:
We all have socially learned ways of going about our lives. When we are presented with a new way to go about something it can make a lot of sense in the moment but also take a lot of practice.
Often times the best things that come from therapy involves collaboration between the therapist and the client. I can assure you I don't have a magic wand in my desk. Of course I still wonder if my therapist has one that he doesn't want me to know about.
Not much I can add to this one.
This is what it looks like when I have tried to be my own therapist.
There is an old saying of : "a Cadillac or a Buick, it doesn't matter as long as you get there." Many times I've had clients share memes with me that perfectly encapsulated what they were actually going through. It can be healthy to use these as a form of self expression when you might feel frustrated trying to name your experience. It also provides a sense of safety in knowing that someone else created that meme and knows what you're going through. As Brene Brown says: "Two of the most powerful words in the english language: Me Too."
Yes, sometimes we use humor as deflection. It is especially tempting if you are as funny as this guy is.
This was shared with a friend of mine who is also a therapist. It really describes the experience I have had with so many wonderful clients who think they are the one who is going to be "too much" for their therapist or are the one human being who "can't be helped". Go see someone then and find out. I think you will be surprised to find out that much of what you experience has a name, and more importantly, that someone else who has experienced it also found ways to overcome it.
We all have burdens. We are also built to not have to carry them alone.
Yes I snuck a serious one in here. Doesn't make it any less relevant. Take care of yourself everyone!
The last week has felt like everything from a mild annoyance to a whirlwind of uncertainty depending on who you ask. Much of the stress we are feeling is related to what we can and cannot control in this situation. Below are just a few tips to consider during the coming weeks to make life a little fuller and let go of worry:
1.) Avoid excessive exposure to media coverage. Too much focus can be more frustrating than soothing. This is especially important if you have children in the house.
2.) Make sure to stay connected with family and loved ones. Even consider reaching out to those who you've been meaning to talk with for a while but didn't get around to yet. Use facetime/skype/text/DirectMessenging to maintain connection. Play games online with one another even if you don't want to in person.
3.) With the weather breaking take the time to connect with nature. This will help avoid "cabin fever" and these behaviors have been shown to be healthy for your physical and emotional wellbeing. Walking or Jogging are a great way to exercise and still be safe by practicing "social distancing".
4.) Maintain as much of your daily routine as you can. Tending to your daily life is a simple but profound way to care for yourself. We respond and feel comfort in structure.
5.) If you have the means, make those healthy recipes you've been talking about for years but "never had time for." Or those small projects around your home that you've been meaning to get to.
6.) Do what helps you feel safe. And remember that this is a proactive measure, as a society, that we are taking to best care for one another. We are not avoiding large events out of fear but out of love and concern for one another.
7.) Keep your mental health and medical appointments. Those of us in the helping profession have been preparing for this so you can focus on your care when you come to us. If you want or need to stay home see if your providers offer televideo appointments instead of cancelling (all my clients are eligible to use this service at no additional cost)
This is an unprecedented time for us as residents of New York. We have a unique opportunity to use this period to better ourselves and show compassion for one another.
What happens when you start to consider going into therapy? Regardless of whether you came up with the idea or it was suggested to you, it can be followed by all the reasons why you don't want to go. This is normal.
So what are some beginning ways to understand more about therapy and what to expect? Here are a few links about what therapy offers and even some types of treatment.
A great website for men. This site will make you think therapy is the most masculine thing you could do besides cage fighting and hunting for your own food.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a front line treatment for people with symptoms of depression and anxiety. This short Youtube clip explains it in less than 4 minutes. Plus the narrator has a classic English accent which makes it sound even more legit:
What in the world am I going to be walking into when I go the first time?
This is a short article to help quell that "Big Pile of Nope" that is telling you to cancel that intake you scheduled.
Where can I see and learn more about therapists in my area:
Psychology Today is the first website that shows up every time in google. For good reason. It will let you search by zip code, who takes your insurance, what issues are nagging you. It will even let you search by names that suggest the therapist is smart and knows what they are doing.
Best of luck and give yourself a self high five for actually considering taking care of yourself by looking for a therapist!