Self Help Now: A community blog

Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade offers ideas for maintaining your mental health.

Secrets of A Therapist

Written by Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade, Community blogger | Jul 15, 2015 4:34 PM

Part of what I've done over the past 40+ years is psychotherapy. People who  are curious and haven't participated in therapy comment that "it must be hard," or ask "is it depressing?" They may hold misconceptions, imagining people lying on a couch for long years of analysis or interpretations of parental blame, sometimes from the movies or TV..

While I can't speak for other psychologists or therapists, I can share my own experience. I remember telling interns that sometimes therapy is as simple as saying, "Tell me more." In other words, just giving a venue for people to think things through without facing lots of udgment can be therapeutic. It can be hard to justify the need for an advanced degree in that case and sometimes a beautician or bartender do the same thing, but the education really helps for knowing what NOT to say, how to avoid harmful interpretations and when to pause or encourage. Good listening is an art.

Then, there's the therapy which requires good analysis of  language and thinking, as well as observation of gestures, facial expressions, posture and interactions (with a partner, family members or with the therapist proper). Looking carefully at behavior and gently guiding the patient to see what's happening and/or directly teaching new skills does take a lot of finess and education.

Sometimes, role playing or acting out different ways of behaving, or relaxation and use of imagination or even hypnosis, art, or story-telling become a major part of therapy. Deciding when, what and how depends on the particular patient and the skills of the therapist. These methods are some of my favorite with children, engaging them completely.

Therapy is interesting, helpful, loving, growth-producing to the patient and therapist. No matter how bad the conditions with which we therapists deal, a good therapist finds it a privilege and a pleasure to help.

Now, that doesn't mean there can't be frustrations, as when patients are resistent, project anger onto the therapist, or misbehave in various ways. I've had fewer than one handful of unhappy experiences in working with people and I've learned that patience wins out. In the couple of bad experiences, the patients came in angry and ready to prove that therapy was not for them. They didn't give it a chance.

So, realize that people who do this work love it and that's part of why it works.

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