Lisa Mitchell

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3 cool truths about effective therapists

Lisa Mitchell | Jul 6, 2016 | 2 comments



Here’s an email conversation I had with my assistant……

Tara:  There were irritating clicks again on the recording of your teaching call.  It’s pretty bad, did anyone complain?

Me:  Again?!!  That’s so awful.  We have to fix it. And, no, no one even mentioned it.  Isn’t that weird?

Tara:  Actually, your students are the nicest bunch I’ve ever worked with.  They are pleasant and appreciative and really easy to help.

Me: I absolutely love working with therapists for that very reason!  (In my thoughts, “Therapists are such beautiful people, I’m so fortunate to get to work with them.”)

Tara works with many different kinds of people, so her feedback is the bomb!

Not only are we pleasant and appreciative and really easy to help.  There some other super important things that make us such great helpers.

Here are 3 cool truths about effective therapists

1. Therapists are insatiable learners.

We are seekers and we strive to continually add to our tool box of skills in order to be effective with our clients.  Bill Doherty, (Psychotherapy Networker, May/June 2013) talks about the particular kind of learning that is necessary for us to keep getting better.  He says of the most admirable therapists, “They continually change and develop while holding onto the core of who they are as therapists. They’re interested in new models and new evidence, but not in serially reinventing themselves with each new fad.”

Continuing education has to hold our interest. We are hungry for education about important concepts, but we won’t be swayed to forget about what makes us unique as a therapist.  We love training.  We love to learn new approaches.  This is how we refresh ourselves and our work.

2. Therapists thrive on their own growth and development.

In a career where there is so much wear and tear on our hearts, we have to have something to combat the potential burnout and callous emotional outlook that lurks behind our office doors.  Ronstadt and Orlinsky’s (How Psychotherapists Develop, 20015) long term and comprehensive study found many ways that we as therapists maintain our well-being.  Of significance is our emphasis on currently experienced growth.  That is, the sense in which we are learning and growing right along with the clients we see.

This kind of learning happens in relationship with our clients—not from a book or seminar.  It is a hands-on learning that affirms our collective belief that clients are our best teachers.

3. Therapists love their clients.

When I start talking about cool truth #3, my students tear up.  We really do love our clients.  We care deeper than we sometimes want to.  We open our hearts to our work and know it is only when we can make that kind of connection that we can truly be effective.

This is a beautiful truth and a hard truth.  We have to keep our love in check.  We can’t let it fool us into crossing boundaries or giving up our therapeutic lens. Some of us struggle with questions about whether it’s okay to love our clients.  There’s sensitivity and grappling.

But, in the end, when my students and I talk about a therapist’s love for their client, they experience a sense of relief and freedom.  They reconnect with something alive and well within them.  The core of them that sustains their work.

All three cool truths are truly awesome!  Sure, we are smart and savvy, discerning and analytical, thorough and methodical.  Sure, we use our theoretical approaches and our protocols.  But these 3 cool truths are different. They are truths that reflect who we are as people—the very essence of us.  The why we can do what we do.

I think it is important to honor all three of these truths internally and externally—to keep them close to your heart and to share with others.  This is why I would like to invite you to my upcoming webinar.   We’ll be diving into these 3 cool truths and talking about what matters in psychotherapy.  And, there will be an experiential art making component, where I’ll be guiding you through the process of making a powerful art book that helps you celebrate the foundation of what you do–you.  Join me-click here for more info.

2 responses to “3 cool truths about effective therapists”

  1. Lanie says:

    So true! We do LOVE our clients. Such an honor to work with helpers and healers. I feel incredibly blessed and honored.

  2. Connie Banta says:

    Such useful comments. And I find myself thinking about how tightly interconnected these three truths are–how that love I feel for my clients is grounded in deep ways in the gratitude I feel toward them for teaching me so much about myself and for how they inspire and foster my own growth. Such a deep reciprocity!

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