Review this web site.
Call and ask questions.
Read The TRANSITIONS Client Handbook.
The first half hour of the first session (90
minutes) is free, so you can have time to feel safe and comfortable about coming BEFORE
you become financially obligated.
Every effort is made here to put all the issues
before you, so you can make an informed choice.
Security includes good confidentiality in record
keeping that includes denial of insurance/HMO access UNLESS client gives consent as an
M.Ed., Ed.S. degrees in Counseling (B.A. High
Honors, Phi Beta Kappa, in Psychology)
N.C.C. refers to board certification as National Certified Counselor.
L.P.C. refers to N.C. State licensure as Licensed Professional Counselor.
Refer to links below to see why I offer a sliding
fee scale as opposed to managed care.
These conditions, including private entry, private
waiting room, and private exit are met at both the Northbrook and Lincolnton offices.
I take the telephone calls from prospective
clients. If I am occupied or with a client, my confidential voice mail answers and
invites you to leave a message so I can call back.
HOW WE WORK TOGETHER:
These factors in a practitioner's background are
important. Most disciplines practice in the same kinds of settings - often with each
other. Thus, over time, the sharp edges of disciplinary uniqueness are rounded by
the years of shared and over-lapping methodologies.
On some occasions, when psychiatric assessment
and/or medicine management becomes necessary, I refer a client to a psychiatrist.
On occasions when in-depth psychological assessment
and testing become necessary, I refer a client to a clinical psychologist for the
Suspected head injuries and neurological disorders
must be referred to specialists in neurology, neuropsychiatry, or neuropsychology for
diagnosis and treatment.
Counseling is my
At times, I may refer a client to a colleague in
another discipline or specialty because it will better meet the client's treatment needs.
One example would be referring a small child to a specialist in Play Therapy.
Working with clients on spiritual issues, according
to their needs and desires, is a favorite aspect of my practice.
The most knowledgeable physicians will readily
refer their patients for counseling. Also, I sometimes refer clients to their
physicians when medication seems indicated as a complement to the counseling process.
When intensive SA intervention is needed at an
inpatient level, these disciplines are essential.
These emerging disciplines and areas of study are
among the most exciting aspects of healing work today.
Much of my post-graduate continuing education has
been in these cutting-edge, holistic areas of study and treatment.
As with many practitioners, part of my background
includes formal training and practice in clinical hypnosis. When indicated, it can
be helpful in client treatment.
Typically, I can schedule a crisis referral within
24 hours - usually the same day, and routine referrals will be seen within the week.
Where Your Help Begins OnlineSM
CHOOSING A COUNSELOR
An Irreverent But Totally Comprehensive Guide to Choosing a
Counselor or Therapist
Probably the most infrequently
asked question that comes my way from a prospective client is: "How can I know if you
are the best counselor or therapist to meet my needs?" Yet, this is the ultimate
concern that underlies any other question the caller may present. None of us wants to
waste our time and money seeking professional support that provides little or no help in
meeting our needs.
My goal in writing this is to help you make the best decision for yourself
and/or others who may become involved in the counseling process. In the six years my web site has been online, I
have hesitated in addressing this issue -- partly because the topic is covered in various
ways on other sites. Unfortunately, some of the discussions put a (not quite truthful)
"spin" or degree of bias slanted more in the direction of the credentials or of
the philosophy of the provider, rather than addressing the reader's ultimate
concern. Sometimes, the bias is obvious as the writer takes an authoritative posture in
arguing that a provider with certain credentials (typically the writer's) is most
qualified to help. The bias is less obvious in other circumstances as an apparently
"objective" writer under-emphasizes the qualifications and potential helpfulness
of disciplines or orientations other than their own. This bias, masquerading in the
word-clothing of "professional objectivity," does not serve the needs of the
reader. We all have biases. I do believe that a part of all professional training involves
learning the ability to express bias in apparently objective terms! Whereas the
"best" politicians are excellent at this, professionals in the helping
disciplines learn to be even subtler. However, the best interests of the potential client
can only be served by open and honest expression of the bias.
I can assure you that with a
generation of time in this field, including training and experience, I do have biases --
and my responses to this topic will
include the most honest reflection of those experience-based and observation-based biases
that I can offer! Hopefully, this will result in your having the most useful knowledge to
make a truly informed choice. Since
there already are good discussions out there on this topic, it seems useful to take
another angle from which to explore the question of how to pick a counselor or therapist.
There are a number of factors to consider from the perspective of a would-be client, so why not explore this by looking, in turn, at
each factor that should be considered? The perspectives and biases I share come from the
experiences, study and observations resulting from my being in the roles of both counselor
and client at different times in my life.
The Security Factor
First, above all else, the setting in which you pursue counseling must be
a sanctuary where you can come to feel safe to disclose the most sensitive and personal
issues of your life -- without fear of having the sanctity of your vulnerability, your
privacy, or your confidentiality being violated. The kind of client vulnerability that comes with a good counseling
relationship must be respected by the helper at all levels, with meeting the client's
developmental and recovery needs being paramount. You must feel safe that you will not be
taken advantage of - not personally, not sexually, not economically and not in terms of
The number of helping disciplines
is growing -- with some being traditionally recognized and well established and others
being "new" to our culture and not so well established. Whether you seek help at
a world-famous clinic or the local "village shaman," your first concern should
be that you or yours would have a safe and secure counseling relationship. Don't be afraid
to ask direct questions up front on everything from qualifications, to confidentiality, to
fees. Established professional helping
disciplines typically have at least one graduate degree in an appropriate academic
discipline from an accredited institution. They also would have board certification and/or
state licensure in their field and membership in at least one professional organization
that has a strict code of professional ethics. If you are not already familiar-enough with the qualifications of your
prospective helper, you should feel free to inquire in enough depth to confirm that their
qualifications will be in keeping with your needs.
Confidentiality and privacy, as
aspects of security, have been eroded in recent years by the influence of managed care
(HMOs, PPOs, etc.) on the practices of the many counselors and therapists who have
subjected themselves and their clients to working under that system. Typically, in behavioral healthcare, managed care
violates client security across-the-board. HMOs violate client confidentiality and privacy
by virtue of semi-public record keeping; they violate client interests by dictating
bottom-line, self-interested treatment management; and they violate clients economically
by ultimately creating more financial hardship for the client down the line. For details,
refer to my online articles, THE RISKS OF MANAGED CARE and How Managed Care Wrecks Our Lives -- A Personal Odyssey. (Also, there are links on this topic on my Resource Links page.) In my opinion, it
is not possible to ethically treat clients under managed care without
violating their security needs on several levels. The counselor or
therapist you choose should offer you fee-payment alternatives to
managed care and insurance (for example, a sliding-scale fee) and an
explanation of the risks of managed care.
A sense of security for many
clients is enhanced by the structure and layout of the counseling facility itself. The ideal is a private entry to a private waiting
room and a separate, private exit upon completion of counseling. Studies have found that a
quiet, comfortably lit, den-like atmosphere is most commonly preferred by clients. You should have a choice of where to sit that
enhances your sense of being safe. As I sit here thinking of editing out these fine
details, I am reminding myself that the smallest sense of being out-of-place can be costly
in terms of lost client growth and poorly spent fees. The first concern is that you feel and
are safe as you begin this journey. Last, but most importantly, this includes how you
feel in relation to your prospective counselor.
Your first phone contact with the
counseling agency should leave you with the secure sense that you made a right decision in
choosing where to get help. You should
have answers to all of your questions before you assume any obligations as to scheduling
Although large facilities often do not easily allow for this, some
personal communication with the prospective counselor is most helpful in
moving toward this feeling of confidence. Finally, while it is common
for persons to feel somewhat anxious at the beginning of the first
session, by the end of the session your comfort level with your
counselor should be where you would feel positive about rescheduling for
the next session. Feel free to disclose and discuss any reservations you
may have about continuing. Since it can take two or three sessions
before things "click" into place in terms of comfort and a sense of
progress, the experts recommend at least two or three sessions before
deciding upon whether this counselor/therapist in this setting will help
you. For your sake, if you are not feeling a sense of progress by then
-- or the counseling relationship does not yet feel right to you --
don't waste your precious time, energy and money. Try going to another
counselor or therapist for help. Once your sense of security is
established in the relationship of a private, confidential and competent
professional counseling setting, the stage is set for your progress.
The helping professions, otherwise
known as mental healthcare or behavioral healthcare disciplines, historically have tended
to address the qualifications factor by establishing a hierarchy. Traditionally, the
person in the discipline highest in the hierarchy, with the highest degree, was deemed
most qualified to treat the client, regardless. While this approach approximates reality
for clients experiencing the most severe psychopathology, in principle, there are many
other considerations. (This is America . . . it's not uncommon for the person living on
the top floor of the most urban condo to drive the most expensive, thoroughly off-road
outfitted SUV . . . but why?) Over the course of my career, I have never seen more
dreadful turf fighting than that found in the community of mental health disciplines --
with the client/public being the most victimized. As I approach "village elder"
status in my lengthy, though humble, practice of my discipline, I feel compelled from my
perception to "share it like it is." This is my informal thumbnail sketch of the mental health field and how
you might navigate toward help in this area.
There is no best disciplinary or
academic qualification for all persons seeking psychological support. Each
professional discipline and qualification offers unique advantages for certain potential
clients or patients. Further, those
advantages are tempered by each practitioner's length and quality of experience and
additional post-graduate training; by focus or expansion of orientations and specialties;
by changes in confidence and competence; and finally, by the attitude or spirit the
professional brings to the helping relationship.
Historically, the mental health
discipline hierarchy was established by precedent and political power -- not by
"who's better qualified" to provide the most competent help. The first
discipline to arrive acquired the top of the hierarchy, with the next discipline following
in kind, and so on, in a process that continues today. Medicine was here first and the
domain of psychological healing was first inherited by medicine. Freud established
psychoanalysis in our culture as the most recognized early prominent theoretical approach
to treating mental illness. Physicians (M.D.s) who specialized in the treatment of mental
illness became known as psychiatrists. Many, not all, psychiatrists were psychoanalysts. Non-psychiatrist psychoanalysts were called lay analysts. Today, few
psychiatrists are practicing psychoanalysts and psychiatry has moved back toward a more
medically-focused, evaluation and medicine-management role -- with some psychiatrists
continuing to do some types of psychotherapy and many others referring out counseling and
psychotherapy to other practitioners. Though psychoanalysis has contributed much to human
understanding, it was primarily theoretical, as opposed to being research-based and much
of this domain remains unsupported by research. This did not stop psychoanalysis from
initially wielding control of the mental health hierarchy, with its classic image of the
authoritative practitioner sitting behind the recumbent patient on a couch. However, the
20th Century brought many changes in this field. Mental health-related
disciplines and models of practice in our society continue to develop and expand at a rate
that seems to lag only slightly behind technology.
As knowledge in behavioral science and healing continued to grow, it became obvious
that it could not be entirely subsumed under the domain of medicine. How people and
animals behave, think, feel and relate was a field unto itself -- and yet, pathology in
those functions certainly had a critical part in the practice of medicine. How would we
integrate this growing knowledge base coming from fields like psychology, neuroscience,
sociology, anthropology, education and human development? Especially in those early
heydays of reductionistic thinking, we compartmentalized our growing
knowledge into disciplinary pigeonholes -- and each one seemed to hatch
a therapeutic discipline. However, since knowledge and methods
overlapped, it was a sad situation in the pigeon coop, for each pigeon
sought to be master of his domain.
Over the course of the 20th
century, psychology emerged as a comprehensive discipline in its own
right. This discipline studied and did research on the origins and development of human
and animal behavior, specializing in sub-disciplines like cognition and emotion, social
psychology, personality, physiological psychology and neuropsychology, learning and human
development, psychopathology, and so on. As research and theory in psychology emerged into
the healing arena, professional psychology developed as a discipline to take its place
along-side psychiatry (or under it from the perspective of some psychiatrists). Professional, helping psychology (in contrast to experimental or research psychology)
then began to divide again in its emphasis.
One aspect identified more with
the medical model and specialized in studying and practicing the discipline from the
perspective of psychopathology, including its development, diagnosis, and treatment. The
discipline of clinical psychology emerged. Like physicians in the medical model,
practice approaches emphasized evaluation, diagnosis and treatment from an authoritative
perspective: the knowledgeable doctor healing the patient. Today, practitioners in this
discipline may work at the Master's degree level (in my state, under supervision, as
Licensed Psychological Associates) or at the doctoral level as Ph.D. or Psy.D. clinical
psychologists. Licensed practitioners in this discipline are especially trained to
evaluate and treat persons suffering from the most serious psychopathologies. Where
organic (brain and nerve function) involvement is suspected as a potential source of the
problem, a patient may be referred to a neuropsychologist (a
subgroup of clinical psychology) or a neurologist (a specialist in medicine), and these specialties
often work together.
The other aspect of the psychology
practitioner discipline split was more interested in the whole continuum of human
development, from birth to the grave, and psychopathology was studied more in the context
from which it fit within the whole continuum through normal to extensional human
experience. Learning and education in the process of human development, along with study
of the best helping methods -- both for enhancing development and for facilitating
recovery from interrupted development -- were emphasized. In the development of this
orientation, it was discovered that the helping relationship was crucial to human
development and healing. As a result, the authoritative practitioner model was
de-emphasized in favor of a client-centered facilitator practitioner model as the most
effective approach for most people. This aspect of psychology became known as
counseling psychology and its practitioners, de-emphasizing the
authoritative (potentially alienating) mystique, called themselves counselors. Over time, one aspect of this group focused on practical applications in
training practitioners for particular settings. The discipline of counseling emerged with a focus in education and developmental settings, emphasizing
group as well as individual treatment approaches in refining the counseling relationship
approach. Counseling has expanded into rehabilitation and clinical settings and emerged
across the whole continuum of relationship work --including marriage/couples, family,
multiple family and even treatment intervention at the societal level.
Depending upon the institution of
their training and their focus, counselors may have Ph.D., Psy.D., or Ed.D. degrees in
counseling psychology from a Psychology Department (counseling psychologist title) or they
may have M.A., M.Ed., Ed.S. (between Master's and Doctorate), Ph.D. or Ed.D. degrees in
counseling -- often from a Counselor Education Department at a college or university.
Masters-level preparation, in many counseling programs today, involves significantly more
work than that required for the masters degree in many other fields. It is typical for
counselors to sub-specialize in areas like: mental health counseling, marriage and family counseling, school
counseling, career counseling, etc. Rehabilitation Counseling training bridges back into the medical area and is
typically taught in a department or college of Health-Related Sciences. Some states now
have licensure reflecting sub-specialization in these areas.
As psychiatry and psychoanalysis
came into their own in a culture of growing social consciousness, the field that came to
be known as social work matured into a full-blown professional discipline.
From its "friendly visitor" origins in the early 1800's, in which volunteers
offered rudimentary social work efforts to lessen the burdens of the poor, this discipline
evolved as a process of various social movements over two centuries. It put a scientific
focus on the causes and potential cures of human suffering -- both from the perspective of
within the family and society at large. This growing body of knowledge was developed as an
applied approach to helping persons who were suffering within the microcosm of family and
the macrocosm of society. The branch of clinical social work
field evolved from within the psychiatric/clinical setting -- often training from a
psychoanalytic core model. This discipline developed therapeutic methodologies from within
social institutional settings, doing the organizational tasks required to bring about
change -- both within the individual and at the social level. Today, social workers serve in various settings from government-funded agencies and
institutions to private practice. Training can be at the bachelor's level (B.S.W.), the
master's level (M.S.W.) and the Doctoral (D.S.W.) level. Social workers functioning at a clinical level generally have the M.S.W. degree, which actually requires significantly
more preparation than the average Master's degree.
Many therapeutic helping methods
developed in the above disciplines were adapted into some specialties within the clergy
professions. Some, but not all, professionals of the cloth are well trained and qualified
(sometimes licensed) as pastoral
counselors. As such, they are able to
address individual or family crises and conflicts within the context of the religious
orientation of their clients. Some qualified pastoral counselors work out of a church
setting, while others are in private practice or functioning as hospital chaplains. At
this point, I hasten to add that an unfortunate number of ministers/pastors, not
qualified in a counseling field, have taken on a professional counseling role for
themselves. Qualifications in preaching do not make one a counselor. In fact, the required
relationship skills (speaking/judging versus listening/reflecting) tend to fall on
opposite sides of the continuum. Over the years, I have worked with more than a few
individuals, couples and families who have been re-traumatized at the hands of
well-meaning clergy who were not qualified in pastoral counseling, nor any other specialty
While we are on the topic of
religious issues in counseling, let's discuss the aspect of spirituality in terms of your
choice of a counselor or therapist. All ethical and well-trained professionals in the
field will refrain from pushing their particular religious views on their clients.
However, spirituality (which I define here as how we seek to answer our
ultimate questions) often is a critical aspect of the counseling process. If this is the
case for you, it may be important for you to find a professional who is experienced,
comfortable and qualified in addressing spiritual issues. You may -- or may not -- want to
work with a counselor who adheres to the religious doctrine in which you were raised.
Physicians, particularly family physicians, are
often the first line of support in mental health intervention. Good ones will take time to
listen and identify the psychological aspects underlying or accompanying physical illness
and will refer when counseling intervention beyond standard medical practice is indicated.
Some physicians will attempt treatment with medication initially
and refer if the pharmaceutical approach doesn't work. The most knowledgeable physicians
will refer, as well as medicate, as studies have demonstrated that the combination works
best for many people. If you are shy about seeking help on your own and you are
comfortable talking to your family doctor or other specialist, your best approach may be
to confide in him or her initially.
Finally, there are other important
disciplines that are less well known as mental health-related
in the performance of their professional work. Some are identified mental health
disciplines. As an example, there are psychiatric
nurse practitioners -- a therapeutic
discipline emerging from the nursing profession. For that matter, members the nursing profession function in a number of settings in which their duties may
include counseling/consultation related responsibilities. Some have branched into
specialties, like nutritional counseling, holistic work, or lifestyles training. Over
recent years, the addictions field has evolved to a level of offering
specialization within some mental health disciplines, from addictionologists in medicine to substance abuse counselors - who may be specialists from another discipline, or stand on that
credential alone. In different states, substance abuse counselors still have varying
degrees of professional (or paraprofessional) training and experience - often with a
successful history of their own recovery. Those who are best qualified and trained can
play a critical role in helping the recovery of addicted persons from all walks of life.
Other disciplines are valuable adjuncts to the counseling/psychotherapy
disciplines and as in the above
disciplines, members who know their capabilities and their limitations can be helpful to
you in your healing process. Music
therapy has emerged as an increasingly
valuable discipline and it has practitioners at the Bachelor and Master levels. There are
other kinds of credentialed art
therapies, along with a growing body
of research to support these approaches to healing the human mind and spirit. The
discipline of massage therapy
(including other physical therapies)
has proven to be a valuable adjunct to counseling. Almost all of the disciplines (naturopaths, acupuncturists, chiropractors, etc.) that identify themselves as holistic or complementary medicine have at least some training that supports the
mental wellness continuum and they will refer (hopefully) when counseling challenges
exceed the limits of their training. (Conversely, with research developments in
psychoneuroimmunology, a growing number of counseling/psychotherapeutic professionals have
studied and developed competencies in holistic approaches/alternative medicine. Hopefully,
they will refer appropriately to these growing disciplines when they reach their limits of
knowledge and skill.)
Finally, there are a variety of
"hypnotherapists" out there, as hypnotherapy has many
valuable applications in appropriate circumstances. Many of the counseling/psychotherapeutic disciplines described above have members who are trained to do
therapeutic hypnosis and some specialize in this. Some of these skilled practitioners have
additional credentials ("initials") relating to their training in hypnosis,
while some do not. Beware. Persons who are not otherwise professionally
trained in a mental health discipline acquire some fancy-sounding hypnotherapy credentials
in weekend/week-long workshops. You would not want a non-physician, surgeon-imposter
cutting into your body on the basis of learning a few surgical techniques over the course
of a weeklong workshop. Why would you want a "techniques-only" person of limited
psychological training "cutting into" your precious psyche?
Attitude: A Mutual
For success in any kind of
counseling process, attitude is critical - both on the part of the counselor and on the
part of the client. It is a mutual process, where each attitude is reflected in the other.
I have shared a great deal on this web page about the importance of post graduate
experience as a good indicator of competence, but no amount of experience is of much value
if the counselor is "burned out." It is essential that you will experience a
sense of enthusiasm and commitment from the counselor from the very beginning of the
relationship. Ideally, you would pick up on this before you commit yourself to a situation
in which you are financially obligated.
There are other ways in which you
may determine the level of counselor commitment to meeting your needs first. Willingness on the part of the counselor to take a
reasonable amount of time, exploring your initial questions with you before you schedule a
session, is an indicator of that commitment. So is a web page that addresses your questions in detail. (I had to say
Attitude can be reflected in an
individual and on an agency level. How quickly is the counselor able to see you, if you
are in a crisis? A professional who overbooks and doesn't have available time for
emergencies may be more connected than popular - especially in these days of managed care.
An example of good attitude in such circumstances would be a readiness to refer you to
another qualified professional so you can get the help when you need it - not at
the convenience of the person or agency making the appointment. Larger agencies -
especially public ones - can be quite impersonal in this respect. The overwork and
understaffing in such agencies can put a strain on morale and promote burnout.
I cannot think of anybody who
entered a mental health discipline for the money. One can become far wealthier (or should
I just say wealthy) on far less education while pursuing another discipline. People enter
a mental health discipline because they love the work it brings. Unfortunately, the
burnout brought on by some of the things I have mentioned (especially recently by overwork
and decreasing income in agency and managed care settings) has compromised the attitudes
and competencies of a growing number of counselors and therapists. While the rest of the
nation sees economic good times, the psychotherapy field is in a deepening state of
economic depression. All this candidness is not meant to discourage you in seeking help,
but to encourage you to hold out in your search until you find somebody who responds with
appropriate care and enthusiasm in meeting your treatment needs.
Counseling professionals love to
work with clients who are invested in
personal change and recovery. While it
is normal for many clients to exhibit some "psychological defenses" in
resistance to the challenge of personal change, those who are serious eventually
demonstrate a commitment to overcoming them. The more enthused a client is in pursuing
growth and recovery, the more enthused the caregiver will remain. On the other hand, if
the client makes a practice of not showing up for sessions, writing bad checks,
unnecessarily canceling at the last minute, etc., he or she is doing more than creating
inconvenience. Such a client is wasting time another client could use and stealing from
the livelihood and professional fulfillment of the counselor - and that can sour the best
of professional attitudes! So, your
first step in pursuing counseling lies in becoming sure that you want to pursue this
course. Sometimes, we know counseling
is our best recourse - or even essential - but we refuse to acknowledge that we have not
yet moved beyond "wanting to want" to pursue it. It's okay to have misgivings,
or even great apprehensions, but it is essential to make the commitment and follow through
to show up for the session. While some aspects of the healing process may be frightening
and painful, nothing will be as frightening and painful as remaining in your present
situation. So, make the commitment for yourself, then find a professional who
promises at least an equal commitment to being there for you in the process.
The Myth Factor
Those of us who are not practicing
in the field (and a good many of us who are) have been influenced in our thinking about what to expect when it comes to seeking counseling
or therapy of some kind. I still
frequently hear the word "shrink" applied to those who work in the mental health
disciplines, and occasionally, new clients express surprise at not finding the
psychoanalytic couch upon entering my office. There are many social forces reinforcing old
ideas of this work and continuing to add to the myths that surround this work. I believe
many aspects of the myths contribute to the anxiety some clients feel when they first enter
the office - and much of the relief as they complete their first session now knowing how
it really is. So, let's explode some of the mythology in this field right here . . . and
if you encounter a professional who seems invested in perpetuating some of these myths,
you will know in which direction to run!
Much of what has been discussed so
far, especially in terms of qualifications, dispels some of the mythology about who can
help you. Unfortunately, the media
(television and movies) are the biggest culprits when it comes to creating false
impressions. The most common image of
a portrayed character that comes to my mind is of a doctor (usually a psychiatrist) who
inappropriately entangles himself/herself in the client's life - or in the life of a
family member. The theme is usually sexual and/or power-oriented and we tend to discover
that the "nut" is really the mental health professional! First, that kind of
involvement in a client's life, or a family member's, is not only considered inappropriate
- if the involvement is sexual, it may be considered criminal in many states. The great
majority of mental health professionals, while of varying degrees of competence, do not
act out in this manner. There are disciplinary measures (revocation of licensure and board
certification, prosecution) reserved for those few who do violate in this way.
Second, the majority of
practitioners in this field are trained at the master's degree level in their discipline,
while many doctoral-level professionals develop their highest competencies in research and
in educating new professionals.
When mental health professionals
are portrayed in the media today, it is usually in a humorous or satirical manner. I
admit, I have fallen out of my chair laughing at the therapists portrayed in Ally McBeal, but these characters hardly even come close to most
of us in this work. (Maybe, a few -
but neither my personal colleagues nor I would fall into this category.) Those of us who
are good at our work respect, and deeply value, our clients. This theme of respect brings to mind another aspect
of current myth building in our field.
While Dr. Laura has gained popularity with her broadcasting work, her disrespectful
communication to her radio "clients" does not even approach what one should
expect in a real counseling session, where an atmosphere of respect and sensitivity
prevails. In spite of her frequent chastisements to others about being honest, she
portrays herself as some kind of therapist - when actually, her doctoral credentials are
in physiology! This perpetuates the myth that any kind of doctor will be an expert on just
about anything! Physiology is to psychology as muenster is to monster. If she believes in
following the fine values she espouses, why doesn't she have a broadcast disclaimer that
her doctorate is not in any kind of therapeutic discipline?
The emergence of Dr. Phil
represents only a slightly more valid media example with regard to what the public can
consider as being representative of a therapist. The
cognitive-behavioral methods he generally employs are among the most
effective of today's treatment approaches. While he can be more
confrontive and caustic than many therapists, he authentically uses his
unique personal qualities, including his warm country-charm -
along with his considerable professional expertise in these methods - to
help his television "clients" resolve their problems. But,
essentially, it's a TV show - not counseling. It is important to
recognize, however, that a considerable amount of preparation goes into
selection and on-air treatment planning for each client. As a
result, the viewer may be given the impression that just about anybody
can can expect the kind of "quick fixes" often seen on his
program. There are pre-program consults and evaluations, then
professional follow-up is often arranged after programming to ensure the
continuity of on-air treatment gains. This leaves only the essence of
the intervention process to be viewed on-air - and then, it's with Dr.
Phil doing mostly talking and little listening. In many "real-life"
counseling settings, clients need considerable time to share their
experiences and the tempo of the therapeutic modalities involved do not
allow for the sound-byte approaches of today's on-air viewing practices.
The work of Dr. Phil and his staff, in my opinion, offers a glimmering
of some therapy settings. Who you see may or may not be similar in style and
quality to Dr. Phil. It is important to remember that every competent
professional will have his or her unique personal and professional
qualities that are brought to the therapeutic relationship. Your
primary concern is that those qualities work for you.
Another trend we see today is the
proliferation of initials after people's names. The myth is that initials mean expertise. It is a good idea to find out what those initials
mean. Though we have outlined some of the initials that pertain to academic preparation
above, additional initials may pertain to certification and/or licensure in various areas.
In the past, initials after a name usually meant years of training and preparation;
passing a qualifying exam, acquiring experience. As given in the hypnotherapy example,
above, now that may not be true. A person with weeks or months of training in various
workshops and/or unaccredited schools may add more initials after his or her name than a
person with a couple of initials signifying a doctorate. Different initials from different
sources carry different weight in terms of actual qualifications. Beware! A good adage is: Initials do not an expert make.
Finally, there is a prevailing
myth that any kind of counselor or therapist is, well . . . just plain weird. To the perceptions of some folks, that may be
true. The old psychological model of what constitutes healthy functioning is what we call
"normal." The classic study of psychology focused on the concept of normalcy
versus psychopathology. Back in the fifties, everybody wanted to be "normal."
That meant "like most other people" and if you want a snapshot of what it looks
like to function like most other people, take a look at all the happy people standing
around you the next time you are in the checkout line. Wanting to be "normal"
like that is what drives many honest people to drugs or depression. Counselors today, especially those who embrace the
transpersonal aspect of the human development continuum, look beyond just healing and
recovery. Life is about discovering
who we are and learning to live up to our potentials. It's about learning and growing from
our mistakes - and the mistakes of others that wounded us. It's about discovering answers
- real spiritual answers that work for us, to the ultimate questions of life. It's
about becoming naturally high and loving and responsible to those who share our lives.
This is not normal. And a helping professional who seems weird in this way may be your
best choice - even if it means that you will eventually tend to stand out
in contrast to the sour-pusses in the checkout
The Most Critical
Ingredient Of All
Of course, you are the most
critical ingredient of all. The best counselor in the world cannot bring to the session
what you already have. It is said that
there is no greater courage than that found in our willingness to sacrifice what we are
for what we can become. You are the one willing to resolve deadlocked conflicts; to pull
back the curtain to expose painful memories; to expose old wounds for healing. And, when
you wonder if you have the courage to go through all this for yourself, you hang in there
because you know you must do it for those you love. I cannot think of a better way to
close this discussion than to paraphrase an observation you will find in your Client
Even though I have been in
clinical counseling work for over twenty years, I increasingly feel a deep sense of
respect and appreciation for each new client who decides to enter counseling with the
courage and commitment to discover and make the changes that will give his or her life new
meaning and direction. Having walked this road personally, as well as professionally, I
know how challenging it can be. The shared trust and the opportunity to participate in,
and witness, the growth of another is a sacred honor to me. My experience in this work has
taught me that
there is no tragedy so great, no shame
so deep, and no pain so overwhelming but that the power of the human
spirit can break through to the light. May it be so with you, as I trust
Granville Angell, Ed.S., L.P.C.,
Copyright 2000, 2004, by Granville Angell - All Rights
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To call TRANSITIONS/SoulMentors:
The ponds outside my office (view from walk)