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This blog is about---You! Each and every post is about you. Use it to challenge your usual patterns, as a tool for self-discovery, to stimulate your thinking, to learn about yourself and to answer your questions about others.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Once Bitten, Twice Shy

One reader has answered the poll so far; the vote was for posts about therapists.  So here it is.

 A new and improved product.  We are constantly being told that we are getting the new and improved version of toothpaste, floor cleaner, running shoes, and a myriad other products which we are being urged to buy.  The best deal is when you get the new and improved cereal for the same price!
Most of us are pretty immune to this advertising ploy by now.  Once you have fallen for that line, bought the new version of your toothpaste and found that it was really the same just fine toothpaste you always had, this sales pitch falls on deaf ears.

However, there IS something that does get constantly improved.  It's not a product, it's a service.  If you are in therapy, in most areas, a licensed therapist is legally required to keep improving!  My state, for example, requires 36 hours of continuing education every two years.  If I don't complete that training requirement, I can't renew my license.  If I am not licensed, I cannot legally practice psychotherapy in my state.
Something like this is true for almost all licensed therapists.  So, even if your therapist doesn't talk about it (although, you could ask if you are curious), they are probably attending seminars and workshops all the time that they are working with you.  So, they are learning, expanding their knowledge base, and, being stimulated to think in new ways, on-going.  If you conclude your therapy and then decide to begin anew after some time has passed, you should actually, for real, find a "new and improved version" of your therapist awaiting you!

In addition, most therapists avail themselves of therapy themselves or, have done.  Some, also go for consultation; in other words, if they have a case that they feel they need another therapist's input on, or they are unsure of the effectiveness of their direction with the patient, or they are looking for suggestions about how to help a particular patient or couple or family, they may go to a colleague for advice.

A less expensive alternative is to form a consultation group with colleagues where there are regular meetings designed to discuss cases, talk about oneself as a therapist, share new research information, talk about the business aspect of running a practice and anything else that might be productive for the members.  This is good in that it is continuous, not just sought for a discrete problem as in seeking consultation with another therapist on a particular question/issue and, there is the advantage of getting feedback from several points of view.  In the group, there is, as in all groups, the second hand learning that also takes place, i.e., we learn by listening to others struggle through their conundrums.

In addition to my required trainings, I, myself currently do two of the three outlined, additional educational activities.   
I also read a lot in my field, participate in on-line discussions with other therapists, and hold a lifetime membership in my professional association which also keeps me updated.  Yep, I admit it, I am an egghead!

How complicated it is to become a therapist and what it takes to maintain oneself in that profession is understandably, not apparent to the consumer.  It's a lot easier to see, when an attorney writes a complex brief or a surgeon performs a curative intervention, how much training they must have.
A therapist who is sitting with you, smiling  as they listen may appear to be doing something easy. 

However, they are also remaining present when you dissolve into tears, remembering from session to session- what your issues are, thinking with you, trying to understand your story, holding themselves in a position of compassion, looking for patterns, considering what they might offer that will be helpful, and attempting to hear beneath the surface.  On the face of it, it can look like nothing more than a social visit.  But, what is really occurring is much more than a simple visit.
The level of responsibility that a therapist shoulders is not necessarily apparent to the patient but, it is to the state, thus the demanding requirements, rules, laws and regulations that they have in place.

Of course, some therapists will do the minimum requirement, others will pursue their work as a calling, and there will always be everything in between---as in all professions.  But, at least to some degree, you are guaranteed a, if not new, continually improved, 'product,' as you go!

Is the information here of interest to you?  Please comment!

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