Being a therapist is a funny thing. There aren’t too many professions that require such deep soul-searching on the part of the professional and the consumer. Yet, for therapists, this kind of inward seeking is necessary to make sure that we don’t spill our own “stuff” onto our clients.
Possibly, one of the most challenging parts of being a therapist is figuring out how to tell if you are doing a good job or not. Unfortunately, client satisfaction isn’t always an accurate predictor of therapeutic success. In fact, sometimes it’s just the opposite. For example, if I challenge a client on his or her resistance to discussing a certain topic, he or she may not be thrilled with me, but that doesn’t mean I’m not doing a good job.
I think that, as healers, we sometimes fall into the pit of trying to measure our effectiveness based on our client’s behaviors. While this works to some extent, it’s never a good idea to rely solely on someone else’s outcome, for your own satisfaction.
How then, can we know if what we are doing is making any difference?
We therapists strive so fervently for precision in our work and aspire to be fine-tuned empiricists, trying to offer precise fixes for the broken elements in our patients’ attachment history or DNA sequences. Yet the realities of our work do not fit that model, and often we find ourselves improvising as we and our patients stumble together on the journey toward recovery. I used to be unnerved by that, but now, In my golden years, I whistle softly to myself as I marvel at the complexities and
unpredictability of human thought and behavior. Now, rather than being rattled by uncertainty, I realize that it is pure hubris to posit specificity. Now, the one thing I’ve come to know with certainty is that if I can create a genuine and caring environment, my patients will find the help they need, often in marvelous ways.
To me, what Dr. Yalom is saying, is something that I’ve come to understand myself:
That I am not in control, and that this is okay, because the forces who are in control, know what they are doing.
Almost as if to bring this point home, an unbelievable, yet, entirely believable thing happened the other day. I was sitting at my kitchen table talking with my husband about a concept that a client had recently brought to my attention. This concept was the idea that Love is Love, and that the bodily shape or gender of the person whom you love is irrelevant. Although this certainly isn’t a new position, the implications that it brought to my mind about all of the labels that we pile upon people was new; at least to me.
Anyway, at that exact moment, not one, but two cardinals bumped into the window of my sliding glass door. The cardinals were a pair, and they both swiftly flew away after the collision. Was it a coincidence that a pair of birds who mate for life made themselves known, just as I was pondering the nature of true love?
I think not.
Instead, I’ll take it as a sign that the Universe stands behind the healing process of those who wish to BECOME their true selves. So, in the end, the problem of the question about whether I’m doing a good job or not is that it’s the wrong question to be asking. Perhaps a better question would be whether or not a client’s therapeutic journey brings her closer to LOVE, because if it does, there is no wrong way to get there.