Cheesy Counselling Stuff That Works

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.

13 thoughts on “Cheesy Counselling Stuff That Works

  1. I don’t think any of treatments work if the person “listening” doesn’t. They only hear some of the words and as a result you end up wasting both parties time

  2. i’ll vouch for the cheesy stuff. it all works -. tapping, stopp therapy, disputing cognitive distortions, breathing, relaxation exercises, exercise, a plus b = c, the bell curve, distraction, balanced living – each is a piece in coping more successfully in life. it’s hard ongoing work, but it works when i work it. i wish i’d launched into life in my 20’s with these skills already in hand. seriously, they need to be taught to people at the onset of life, not later.

    i also vouch for the dynamic between a therapist and client, perhaps as being the cog upon which progress turns. self help on it’s own may not be enough. ,

  3. ” 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.”

    Hello Scott,

    This paragraph (above) made my day. I am a firm believer of that, and I wish it were enough. Unfortunately, thinking that way has little effect when I go to job interviews and potential employers expect me to have a master’s degree. I wish they would give me the opportunity to teach some classes at a community college. I wish they saw me as someone capable of helping people, not because of what I know, but because I want to help and I can figure out the most appropriate way to do it for each individual. I wish they understood that some of us can’t just keep paying international tuition (which is the highest rate) just to fulfill certification requirements.

    So, I’m glad you think that way. I really like your post. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s