Like most counsellors I have tried many ‘techniques’ in my years to order to help individuals deal with a panacea of mental health issues. I remember studying psychology in university and learning about the importance of clinical integrity, the need for evidence-based best practices, the importance of double-blind studies. I love to learn and enjoyed/enjoy learning about neuropsychology, serotonin, beta waves, the amygdala, freudian theories, behaviorism, etc. etc. etc. I still endeavour to learn something every day, if I can, and realize that my understanding and incorporation of therapeutic principles continues to grow (and hopefully mature). As I have said to my children, “I used to know everything, when I was your age.” The older I get and the more I study the less I seem to know. The world of knowledge continues to expand, and I realize now how little I understand.
Many years ago I would pride myself on my education and knowledge. Like all younger people I believed sincerely that though we are all equals, some of us were a little more equal. Helping people learn concepts, and apply them to life with success, can produce a heady sense of “humble” arrogance. It becomes easy to believe Nietzsche that people are the ‘herd’ or sheep, and you are a shepherd. I no longer believe that. I once would pride myself on my ability to impress people with knowledge and insight, now I am just humbled that people would come to see me.
There has also been a gradual, yet profound, change in what I teach people. For some reason very few of my clients care about my profound psychological storehouse of information (if I had one). They are less interested in my dazzling intellect than they are in what works. Many of them have been in therapy before, with varied results. They are tired of sitting across the desk from a psychiatrist who does not offer any insights but merely reflects their thoughts back to them. They are tired of hearing, “so what do you think?”
I have become a pragmatist. There I said it. I no longer laugh at neuropathy, or acupuncture, or breathing exercises. For some reason I had this ridiculous notion that people only needed to get smarter to get better. I was an idiot. I have come to realize that methodology is not as important, as Scott Miller suggests, as the relationship I have with my clients. Helping people find change and relief has become a great deal more important than my personal need to look good and sound smart.
These days I realize the power of things like STOPP Therapy, dealing with cognitive distortions, self talk exercises, realistic affirmations, and breathing techniques. I am reading a book on meridian tapping (EFT) and, in spite of the part of my brain that wants to yell “bullshit” I know that things like EMDR and acupressure really seem to help people. I’ve even known people who use primal screaming or laughing therapy and swear by it. I may be a little too Canadian for that, but if it works, mazel tov. I am in this world to help people and am now convinced I would stand on my head and spit nickels if I was convinced it worked.
When I introduce such concepts, however, I almost always begin by backpedaling. I know I am doing it, I know I should not do it, but on some level I’m embarrassed. Embarrassed that you have come to a counselor who you expect to give you brilliance and instead I’m about to teach you something a grade five could. I’m about to teach you something that you could google – in fact the information I am going to give you I just stole from a website that I used ‘White Out’ to hide the address so you won’t know I get much of my stuff off the internet.
I went to school for years, learned philosophies in their original language, studied with brilliant professors, and have thousands of hours of counseling experience; now here is something I read in Reader’s Digest, please pay the MOA on your way out.
- Living My Life To Impress A Five Year Old (scott-williams.ca)
- New Treatments Improve PTSD Prognosis (everydayhealth.com)
- Depression: How To Feel Like A Loser (scott-williams.ca)
- Lies We Tell Ourselves #3 – He Is Perfect For Me. It Was Meant To Be! (scott-williams.ca)