You may know I am a supervisor for Marriage and Family Therapists in training. I supervise students, post-grad interns, and licensed MFTs looking to earn their AAMFT Approved Supervisor Credentials. Once, when supervising a group of student interns, we talked about authenticity in the therapy room. Authenticity, we determined, is crucial to joining well and building rapport with potential clients. Authenticity then often allows you into the inner world of the people you work with.
The students wanted to know how I model authenticity. I talked to them a little about the internal script I have developed over the years of doing therapy. In general, everyone I work with gets a very similar version of the script. One thing I make sure to say in the beginning is what I hope to accomplish during our intake (that’s the first session) one of which is determining whether I am going to be a great therapist for them. At the end of that session, when the timer goes off, I say, “We’ve now spent about an hour and a half together and I want to hear from you, about how you feel sitting across from me”. After the client answers, I may also call out some of the quirks I have, based on my enneagram. Specifically, I want clients to know I tend to live in my head a lot and sometimes get lost there and if they are having trouble with something I am saying to please let me know.
So, if you are thinking about working with me what are three things you need to know about me as you are making your decision?
First, I care about you and your goals. That I care about you and your goals may seem trite. I don’t mean it that way. I genuinely care about the people I work with and what they want to accomplish. I have had to work on balancing my level of care. When I first began this journey, I found that I often cared more than my clients did. It occurred to me one day, I can’t care more than they do, I can’t work harder than they are willing to work. Funny…once I came to that realization, I started to hear the phrase, ‘you can’t work harder than your clients’, everywhere. Because I genuinely care about people there have been periods in my life when it was easy for them to take advantage of me. I had some really horrible experiences because of it; I am sure I will share more about some of them later. So, I had to learn how to be authentically me without making everyone I worked with into another client or another case. I can’t really be the judge on this one, but I think many of my former clients would say they felt cared about while working with me.
The second thing you may want to know about me could be captured by this quote from Dr. David Viscott’s book Emotional Resilience, “If you lived honestly, your life would heal itself”. At first, it probably seems weird to use this quote to define something important about me that you may want to know. The truth is I have experienced a lot of pain because of not being honest with myself and other people. In my ongoing quest to heal myself, I am working on living my life as honestly as possible. What does that mean for people who work with me? I think it means they get the authentic me. After I meet with people for the first time and ask them how they feel sitting across from me, I am blatant about the fact that not everyone likes sitting across from me and I am okay with that. I hope the people I work with, whether for therapy, supervision, or coaching, my clients feel they can live honestly too! Honesty is important for many reasons. Perhaps in the context of this business, it is important, to be honest with yourself first, like loving yourself, though not in a narcissistic way. The idea is if you don’t love yourself, you can’t love others, at least not authentically. If you can’t be honest with yourself, you also won’t be honest with others.
Third, I tend to view problems from a place of rationality and logic. I recall working with a student who was emotionally charged about a situation. My response was to acknowledge and validate the emotion but to suggest a more logical approach to the problem. The student asked why I was always so logical. I supposed it was a bit of a curse, not quite Spock-like but certainly too far in that direction.
I shared in an earlier post how I sometimes come across as a know it all. I confess I don’t know it all but I endeavor to be a lifelong learner. Over my years of learning and experience, I have accumulated a lot of information, some of it useless but I have learned to access it fairly quickly when confronted with new challenges. The other thing that happens because of my perspective is that I sometimes come across as abrasive and uncaring. While I am working on that. Most people that stick with me for even a short amount of time, quickly notice that I am a genuinely caring person.
We may never end up working together and that is okay. If we do, you can be assured that although I may look at problems differently from you, you will get my honest and caring perspective of how you can achieve your own growth goals.