Monday, August 1, 2016

Challenges of A Psychotherapists

"In my early professional years I was asking the question: How can I treat, or cure, or change this person? Now I would phrase the question in this way: How can I provide a relationship which this person may use for his own personal growth?" - Carl Rogers. 
I have had many people ask me about what I do in the hospital and I have posted previously (scroll down in the older posts) about my role as a chaplain. Another role that Chaplains have or another hat we wear is the hat of a Psychotherapist. Psycho what? Yep! Psychotherapist!

Thinking about seeing a therapist but confused about the different titles? Psychiatrist, psychologist, psychoanalyst, psychotherapist. Point being is that there are a lot of psychos in the world :) So what is a Psychotherapist?

A Psychotherapist is really an umbrella term for any professional who is trained to treat people for their emotional problems. Depending upon their academic degree and clinical training, a Psychotherapist can be a Psychiatrist, Psychologist, Social Work, or Chaplain (among others), and work with individuals, couples, groups, families, communities to help navigate them with the emotional distress present. We use many different techniques to assess and provide different interventions. Many models of assessment and interventions are present so I won't unpack them all here but I would like to touch upon one point; the challenges a Psychotherapist faces. Our work can be demanding and sometimes we don't see "results" (whatever that means) immediately. According to Joyce Marter, a Psychotherapist, she believes the challenging to maintain a happy medium between letting clients rinse and repeat unhealthy patterns can be a challenge:

One of the most challenging aspects of conducting therapy is finessing the balance between meeting clients where they are at and also encouraging them to grow. I believe we all unconsciously recreate patterns in our life that are familiar to us as a way of working through our issues.
When a client presents for therapy, I will honor their emotional experience and reflect empathy as a way for them to express and release feelings that may be preventing them from moving forward. I will gently but directly encourage them to identify themes and patterns in their life that are no longer working for them.
When clients are ready to make positive change[s] in their lives, they will learn from these insights and empower themselves to choose roles and relationships that promote wellness, happiness and success in their lives.
However, sometimes we need to repeat these patterns over and over until we are ready to look within ourselves and make the changes. It is difficult when clients focus on others (who they cannot control) and continue to cycle in a way that is self-limiting.
It is at these times that I need to practice healthy detachment with love–the ability to unplug from my clients’ stuff and understand that they are exactly where they should be in their journey and they will make positive changes only when they are ready.
I often refer to the Serenity Prayer, which is, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” This reminds me that I should focus on everything that is within my power as a therapist, such as providing empathy, compassion, insight, interpretations, coaching on how to change self-talk and perspective, and increase copings skills and awareness through psycho-education.

I need to continually remind myself to let go of that which I cannot control, such as the clients’ responses, behaviors, progress, etc. I remember when I was in graduate school, a beloved professor of mine said, “Joyce, you are very good at being empathic and breathing people’s stuff in. You need to remember to breathe it out.” Her words were very wise and I reflect on them daily as I continue to grow as a clinician.
Creating positive change is taxing on the people you provide support to. And, naturally, it is also emotionally draining for clinicians. Christian Hibbert, a clinical Psychologist and postpartum mental health expert, tries her best to prevent emotional overwhelm as she summarizes in the following:  
For me, the toughest part about doing therapy with a client is ensuring I do not get consumed with the emotional drain. I strive to be fully present with my clients, to listen carefully and feel what they are feeling. Empathy and connection in the therapeutic relationship is key to helping the client make change, and it is rewarding to get to know these wonderful people in such a deep and intimate way.
However, it can also be very draining. I used to work longer days and I would come home depleted, with little left for my family’s needs. But now I work shorter days, which helps keep my energy levels up.
I also prepare myself before sessions through deep breathing and visualization techniques that help me feel prepared to be with my clients, to empathize and feel with them while they’re there with me, but to also leave it all in my office when I go home.
I don’t let the emotional experiences “stick” to me like I used to, and that makes doing therapy so much healthier for me, which makes me a better psychologist for my clients.
This was just a tad bit of what a Psychotherapist is and what it is that we do. Our work can look different depending on the place of work and the environment we find ourselves. However, one thing is certain with all Psychotherapist; the care of the human being is what pushes us to be present with everyone we come into contact with! 

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Faith: The Place of Mystery

I've been reading Brene brown's book "The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who you Think You're Supposed to be and Embrace who you Are".  Dr. Brown is a social worker and is a research professor at the University of Houston. This book focuses on vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame, shared ten guideposts on the power of wholehearted living-a way of engaging with the world from a place of worthiness. I recommend this book to any who's felt down at any point in life. This passage on faith touched me and I hope you enjoy it as I did.

I've come to realize that faith and reason are not natural enemies. It's our human need for certainty and our need to "be right" that have pitted faith and reason against each other in an almost reckless way. We force ourselves to choose and defend one way of knowing the world at the expense of the other.

I understand that faith and reason can clash and create uncomfortable tensions-those tensions play out in my life, and I can feel them in my bones. But this work has forced me to see that it's our fear of the unknown and our fear of being wrong that create most of our conflict and anxiety. We need both faith and reason to make meaning in an uncertain world.

I can't tell you how many time I've heard the terms having faith and my faith in my interviews with men and women who are living the wholehearted journey. At first I thought that faith meant "there's a reason for everything". I personally struggled with that because I'm not comfortable with using God or faith or spirituality to explain tragedy. It actually feels like substituting certainty for faith when people say, "There's a reason for everything".

But I quickly learned from the interviews that faith meant something else to these people. Here's how I define faith based on the research interviews:

Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty. 

I also learned that it's not always the scientists who struggle with faith and the religious who fully embrace uncertainty. Many forms of fundamentalism and extremism are about choosing certainty over faith. 

I love this from theologian Richard Rohr: "My scientist friends have come up with the things like 'principles of uncertainty' and dark holes. They're willing to live inside imagined hypotheses and theories. But many religious folks insist on answers that are always true. We love closure, resolution and clarity, while thinking that we are people of 'faith'! How strange that the very word 'faith' has come to means its exact opposite". 

Faith is essential when we decide to live and love with our whole hearts in a world where most of us want assurances before we risk being vulnerable and getting hurt. To say, "I'm going to engage wholeheartedly in my life" requires believing without seeing. 

Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who you Think You're Supposed to be and Embrace who you Are. Pages 90-91.