FROM THE INSIDE OUT, INSIDE A THERAPISTS MIND
From the inside out
Living inside of a therapist's mind can be confusing, lonely at times, and frustrating. There are not many books out there that are written to help the therapist help themselves.
Being in the mental health field for over 34 years this writer would often appreciate a little bit of help and advice in regard to the clients she works with as well as processing her own mental health issues on occasion.
In the book Doing Better, Improving clinical skills and Professional Competence by Jeffrey A. Kottler and W. Paul Jones, they discuss many areas that the Therapist struggles with. Areas such as supervising themselves, critical self-monitoring, confronting diversity, dealing with boredom and therapy, self-regulation and healing thyself.
Although this book is an excellent resource for all therapists to have on hand, reading it does not solve all of the small problems a therapist may go through on a day-to-day basis.
Personality, life skills and events, familial situations, job stress and pressures, all add to how the Therapist can handle stress and their job in particular.
This does not mean they are unable to do the job of helping others to help themselves, it simply means they are human and thus suffer as humans.
Personality of the Therapist
Just as there are many different personalities within the general population, so too are there a variety of personalities in the Therapist population.
According to Michael Dobson from the book Exploring Personality Styles in the Skillpath series, there are four styles:
The focus or wants to know about the task at hand, they take charge and work independently. They value practicality and prefer a direct or authoritative management style. Focuser’s are productive and value successful experience in other people. As a follower they respect strong leadership and work best when given clear goals. They focus on outcomes and they want to have authority. The focuser’s learn best by doing
The relater wants to know about the big picture. Their preferred role is coordinating or facilitating and they value teamwork. They prefer to be an organizer as management style and value flexibility. In other people they value group participation and respect those that consent with the rest of the group and are able to focus. They work best when given broad and general goals and their management focus is on involvement. The focuser wants to have influence on others and they learn best by observing and participating.
The Integrator wants to know the significance and the why about everything. They prefer problem-solving and diagnosis, they value innovation, and they like supervisors who are self-directed. The integrator is self-reliant and values questioning people. As a follower they respect personal significance and good reasons to do things. They work best when given ideas and input and like to focus on input as well as having time to assess the situation. The integrator learns best by listening and self study.
The Operator wants to know about the details of everything. They prefer monitoring and analyzing their subjects and value documentation. They prefer a controlling management style and accountability. In others the operator values compliance and as a follower they respect the policy systems, laws, and procedures. They work best when given a systems approach and they focus on procedures and policies. The operator wants to have clear boundaries and learns best by repetition and procedures.
As you can see by the above variety of personality styles, in order for therapist to match up perfectly with the client they must have styles which are compatible. When personality styles do not match with therapist and client, the client suffers and ends up quitting therapy with the belief that therapy does not work. The therapist may then feel a sense of guilt, frustration, and even loss when losing the client that they could have helped had they utilized a different approach.
Working from the inside out
Therapists are expected to be the experts in the field of mental health. But because they are human as well of the nature of what they do, they also suffer from stress and may be sensitive to issues that are personal. Simply having to be aware of “our” issues could drain the therapist on a day-to-day basis causing burnout and feelings of pressure.
Depression, anxiety, relationship problems, burnout, substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts and attempts have all been listed as problems experienced by therapists and Psychiatrists (Kottler & Jones 2003). Therapists are trained to believe that their never-ending self-growth is an integral part of their professional competency (adapted by Kottler, 1999).
So, if we are trained this way, why do we not practice what we preach? Our pride, ego, and because we are so good in our area of expertise reduces our motivation to get help for ourselves. Why is it that we feel we can be there for others at the expense of our own mental and emotional health?
According to Kottler, we need to take time regularly for serious self-care and reflections to address our own issues. Getting enough sleep, eating right, exercising, all are part of the therapist helping themselves.
Asking colleagues and friends to help monitor our behaviors is one of the steps to healing. We need to ask ourselves are we being true to her our clients, but most of all are we being true to ourselves? And if push comes to shove we need to get off our duffs and make that important appointment with our own therapist to seek the help we need to heal ourselves.