Thursday, November 3, 2011
Reflections: Why I am not a psychotherapist (with credit to Harry Specht)
One of the lessons I have learned over my life--painfully at times--is to be relentlessly honest with myself and to assess my role in the outcome of a situation. It does not come easy, and truthfully, after practicing for 20+ years, it comes much easier now than it did when I first began in this field. Because of that, I know it takes time for students to learn to do that, and that I have to be patient as they develop those skills. It is frustrating because the very size of classes, and the demands of those other things--like grants and research and program administration--sometimes keep you from being able to devote the amount of time you want to give to other things that are equally or more important.
So, what does this have to do with why I am not a psychotherapist? I have been in the past: I have the knowledge, skills, and credentials to do so, and am licensed to do so. I use my psychotherapy knowledge and skills all the time; I cannot help it. As my colleague and partner in private practice used to say, "It's hard to turn off your therapist's ears" and I spent a lot of years in the mental health field.
It's because group work and community work is more fulfilling to me; it brings the sense of connection that I think all humans need, and it is through relationship that everything matters. So even when it is painful to be in relationship (not in a relationship, but in relationship) I find joy in it. As I shared with my friend last week while we were in Atlanta, sometimes out of our deepest and darkest pain is the breakthrough that we need to move forward, and when we have asked for that understanding, we cannot then say to the universe "never mind."
That understanding is what I wish for my students as they prepare to practice social work.