You can make the most amazing website, hire the best designer, and decorate your office to the nines, but if you do not do good work with people your business will not last very long. You might be asking, “How does one go about doing good work?” There are a number a different factors that go into a therapist’s ability to do good work with his or her patients. Ultimately I think it comes down to one factor: How committed are you to your own personal growth?
I’ve said it many times before (and so have a couple of our guest-authors), but a key to being a great therapist is getting great therapy. I was pretty resistant to getting my own therapy. My ego said “if you need your own therapy, you can’t be of help to anyone else!” I ultimately broke down and called Jamie who has now been my therapist on and off for the past 6 years. Therapy has a direct impact on my work with my clients. I have more empathy for them. I am less bothered with their stuck-ness. I can imagine my own anxiety in times of silence during sessions. I could go on, but the reality for me is that my personal therapy has given me great opportunities for growth. I can invite my clients into the familiar arena of growth and change.
You cannot take anyone further than you have gone in your own story. Imagine being hired as a trail guide, kind of like a sherpa. Now imagine that your job is to lead people up a mountain. The problem is you’ve never been on a mountain trail before, let alone this one. The trek starts tomorrow, so you don’t have time to go hike the trail beforehand to familiarize yourself with it. The books you’ll read tonight will give you great facts and trivial knowledge, but ultimately it’ll be the blind leading the blind. It will not go well. This is not the kind of guiding our clients pay us for. They pay us to walk through a process, a mountain trail, that we are intimately familiar with — not just theoretically familiar.
I understand that growth happens for many who never set foot in a therapy office, and for us therapists that too can be true. But, I think every therapist needs to know what it feels like to sit on the couch. It’s that kind of intimate experience with ourselves, and another person that is a priceless experience. Growing as a therapist also happens with trainings, certifications, public speaking, writing, peer consultation, individual and group supervision, and reading/studying.
When we do good work with others, they will tell their friends and colleagues about you. Over the last several months I’ve been learning to accept that I am not a great fit for everyone. Sometimes when I don’t do good work it’s because the issue or person wasn’t well suited for my gifting in the first place. Identifying who is and who isn’t a good fit will go a long ways in helping you achieve doing good work with your patients.