As therapists, we like to think we’re bringing a lot of heavy gear into the room with us. Loaded up like Navy SEALs. We strap on our educations. We wear our titles like medals. Our licenses like awards. We can toss out book titles. Hand out homework. Whip out our checklists and surveys. Shoot the breeze. Check in.
We listen. We nod. We observe. We reflect. We reframe.
We are loaded up with tricks. Or possibly overloaded with them.
It’s easy to rely on the gear. But here’s a thought. Instead of walking in with the gear, all camo and full metal jacket, maybe think of yourself as Barney Fife. With just the one bullet. Your one bullet being your personhood – your personality. Be the bullet.
You are the sum of what you know. Of what you’ve experienced. Of the things that make you laugh, that make you interesting, that keep you interested. Sure – school and licenses and supervision and experience – they’re all part of the gear. But all the education and licenses in the world can’t turn a dull tired stick-in-the-mud shrink into a dynamic therapist who can connect with clients.
Many of us are loathe to self-disclose. Fair enough. But let’s not be afraid to laugh. To crack jokes. To tell the truth about ourselves. To shed the occasional tear. To be real.
Be present. Be yourself. Let them know you’re human.
Yeah, I know. Cheesy. Risky, maybe. But guess what? Everyone will live right through it and you’ll be a more effective therapist and a happier person.
And your clients will keep coming back. Not for the gear. For the person who knows how to use it.
Upping your game – a Lifeologie institute Core Values series –
Core value: comfortable client care
by Melanie Wells, LPC, LMFT