Being A Therapist In Therapy

Damian asked some very good questions in response to this post, so I thought I would explore some of them a little more.

I thought most therapists today used a combination of Jungian, Freudian, CBT, etc as different tools in their tookit to deal with different problems. I’d be disappointed too if a therapist only offered one approach. It would be like taking your car to a mechanic who would only fix things that required pliers or jumper leads. (Actually, I think I’ve just described an auto electrician!)

Yes, they do. I use a very eclectic approach. It’s based in person-centered therapy, with a ton of psychoeducation. I am a huge believer in psychoeducation because you’re giving the client the tools to understand, gain insight, and make changes. They can take these tools with them even after therapy has ended and continue to utilize and apply them. Kind of like the adage “Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish ; and you have fed him for a lifetime.” I think that knowledge is power and is empowering in itself. Especially working with survivors of DV, their power has been stripped from them for so long that helping them learn how take their own power back is really important. From there, I tailor the rest of my interventions for the client. I’m more confrontationl with those that I feel need it or can handle it. I utilize journaling as catharsis and a way to gain insight and get stuff out for almost all of my clients. I use some cognitive behavioral interventions (change your thoughts, change your behavior) and some art therapy, too. The art therapy has some really huge results and has been fascinating to work with. I will use other interventions if I feel like it will be helpful for a specific client. I’ve made genograms with clients, timelines, conducted 30 minute relaxation exercises– whatever I feel will work for a specific person. But if I had to group myself into a certain modality, I’d call myself a humanist.
But Jungian therapy, for me, is too much psychobabble. It’s an offshoot of Freudian theory and I don’t really agree with most of Jung’s theory. It’s not something I use or connect with, so that kind of therapist would be bad for me. I knew I wanted a humanist approach, not too cognitive-behavioral. I knew I wanted open-minded and accepting. And I knew I wanted to be challenged. Those were really my criteria for finding a therapist.
Also, don’t you have a professional supervisor – a therapist you see to offset the fact that you are dealing with everyone else’s problems? Or is this therapist replacing the previous incumbent.

I do have a supervisor, but she’s not my therapist. She’s aware of some of my countertransference issues I was having, and knows I’m starting therapy for it. But her job is to give me advice, help me with clients when I feel stuck, and offer support and lend an ear. I do keep her updated so she is aware of what’s going on. She is not my therapist. That would be a dual relationship, which is totally against ethical guidelines. You never have someone that you have any other kind of relationship with, whether it’s at work, a friend, a romantic partner, a neighbor, a member of your church, etc., as your therapist.
Maybe your professor wanted you to see a men’s activist so that all your views and ideas would be challenged and tested – it’s a good way to help you to challenge bad ideas out of existance so that you can put all your energy behind your good ideas.

I don’t mind being challenged, and I expect my therapist to challenge me. That’s what she’s there for. A good one will always challenge your views. However, sending a feminist to a men’s activist is like asking for trouble. Incompatible views and ideas completely. My entire belief system is based around the oppression of women by the patriarchy, and men’s activists believe that men are oppressed as well. I need a therapist that is willing to understand where my views come from and why I feel the way that I do. One that will accept my queerness as well (not that a men’s activist wouldn’t).
The hardest part of therapy for me is letting go of my therapist identity while in session. I find myself thinking about what I would have asked, or thinking, “I wouldn’t have asked that question,” or “Why didn’t she ask me…” It’s very difficult to give up that control and not to be hyper critical of the person doing therapy with me. It’s something I’ll have to work on, and I will have to get used to someone else’s style and technique. It’s not easy for me, as I conduct 5 sessions a day and they’re all run in *my* style. So if you think about it like that, I’m involved in multiple therapy sessions a day and they’re all run in the same style. Adjusting to someone else’s is a challenge. So far, I like my therapist. I need to get to know her a little better and adjust to her way of conducting therapy. She may be a little opinionated or advice-giving (therapists should never give advice. They are there to help you make decisions and weigh the pros and cons and options and explore what you want to do, but they should never tell you what to do. It’s not their job and again, is unethical. They can ask why you think one choice is better than the other, tell you to rethink your decision, but ultimately, the client needs to make their own decision for themselves) for me, but that is still yet to be seen.
Hope that clarified some stuff, and maybe even told you a little more about me and how I conduct therapy!
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  1. emily
    Posted June 26, 2009 at 7:11 pm | Permalink


    You may have mentioned this before, and you may not want to go into too much detail, but what kind of therapy work do you do? I know you're in school, but are you in a master's program for a specialization, or just to get certified?

    The reason I ask is because I'm also a psych graduate seeing a therapist, so I'm interested in how your experience as a practicing therapist compares to mine as someone who knows the psych ideas but doesn't use it daily.

  2. Britni TheVadgeWig
    Posted June 26, 2009 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    I'm a therapist at a domestic violence center. I see about 15 individual clients a week and run a group as well. I'm getting my master's in mental health counseling, and this is the internship portion of my degree. I graduate in December, and then have 1500 more hours as a registered intern before I apply for licensure.

    Basically, I still conduct therapy and act as a therapist in every way, I just don't have my license yet. It's like the residency portion of med school for a doctor.

  3. Hubman
    Posted June 26, 2009 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    So THAT'S what a men's activist therapist is!

    My mom is a social worker/counselor and we've talked some about styles. I like the approach of a therapist with multiple tools, using what is best for a particular client.

    Thanks for sharing :-)

  4. Nolens Volens
    Posted June 26, 2009 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing with us. People have told me that I should be a therapist, but I just can't stand people who KNOWS how to fix their problems and won't. They'd rather whine about it. Cheers.

  5. Sa
    Posted June 26, 2009 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

    What an interesting post.
    Do you find it hard to switch off your therapist mode when you are enjoying leisure time? I have a friend who is training to be a psychiatrist and sometimes a strange gleam appears in her eye, she bends towards me and says in her professional voice: "And how did that make you feel?"

  6. Damian
    Posted June 28, 2009 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    Well, that explains it, then.

    Good luck. I hope it all goes well.

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