Friday, 14 October 2011

Therapeutic Qualities

Someone asked me what qualities I thought a therapist ought to possess.  At the time, the question took me by surprise as I wasn't expecting it.  Having had some time to reflect I began to think back to the first few years of my training, and of Rogers' core conditions:  unconditional positive regard, empathy and congruence.  These are all clearly important, but I'm not sure they comprise exactly what the individual who asked me would be looking to discover.

There are many things that I have learnt about therapy that I will almost certainly never find in a textbook.  These include the subtle, but significant difference between empathy and sensitivity, and the miles between listening and hearing.  As a therapist, I believe that pragmatism is practically essential, and that I wouldn't get very far were it not for a healthy dose of humility that I embody in the room with my clients.  The temperature at which I meet a fellow being is crucial, and whilst warm, therapy is rarely cosy.  I try to practice anything I preach and do not ask my clients to walk down any roads I've yet to journey myself, nor cross bridges whose strength I am not certain. 

Above all, I would not be the therapist I am were it not for the ethics that my training instilled within my practice, the balance I have discovered and strive to maintain, the resilience my support structure gives me and the daily inspiration I derive from colleagues, clients and fellow travellers alike. 

"By prizing heartfulness above faultlessness, we may reap more from our effort because we're more likely to be changed by it." 
Sharon Salzberg, The Power of Intention (2004)

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