Dr. Romance advises a student on the meaning of 'therapy is an art you can only learn by practicing"
Dear Dr. Romance:
I am a 25 year old M.A. student from the Middle East. This year is my final year to have my M.A. degree as a Family specialist to become a family counselor. I saw many things you wrote online as a family and couple therapists and i Loved them all! I was wondering if you could direct me and hear what you have to suggest that I should do after my Masters. Which courses or degrees are best for me to take more to have a wide experience as a family specialist .. And I am considering a PhD. program, which program you would suggest the most? What is your PhD. was about? Thank you for your time I would really appreciate it if you could give me answers
Congratulations on almost completing your Masters. I know how much work that takes. I have no information about licensing in the Middle East. When I got my Masters, I was required to have 3,000 hours of counseling under supervision, and then I sat for a California licensing exam, which I passed in 1978. That gave me a license to work as a Marriage, Family Therapist, or psychotherapist. I began a private practice, which I'm still doing today. In 1987, I went back and got a PhD.
If you want to work as a therapist in your own country, and they have licensing, I suggest you go to the licensing board there to find out their requirements and accepted schools. The best thing you can do is begin doing therapy -- as in intern, if that is what your country requires. You'll learn far more on the job than in school.
Find a therapist that you admire and want to learn from, and see if you can work in that practice, under the supervision of that therapist. Get started as soon as possible (if you haven't already) The only way to learn therapy is therapy begins with the students practicing on each other, and then observing group therapy, then doig group therapy and then individual therapy. What you learn in class is helpful, but therapy is an art you can only learn by practicing. Find a professional clinician's course taught independently by a therapist you respect. "Ten Things People Don’t Know about Therapy" and "Guidelines for Finding and Using Therapy Wisely" will give you some insight.
Here are the guidelines I use when teaching students:
1. Make sure you are effective with clients. Clients who get better are very motivating. It’s more important to help clients heal old trauma then to adhere to a theoretical base.
2.Work from your heart – trust yourself and your intuition. If you guess wrong, just accept it and go on. In the end, you have to do therapy your own way. Theories and studies are helpful, but not if they hamper your own style.
3. Identify your preferences, do your best to maximize what you like and minimize what you don’t like. If you don’t like paperwork, get computer programs or secretarial help. If you don’t like working with depression, either don’t see those clients, or get more training so you’ll know how to handle it. If you like working with women, children, couples, etc. focus on that in your practice building.
4. Have a support team of colleagues with whom you can share your therapy experiences as peers.
5. Learn to set solid boundaries. Learn how to say no to intrusive clients, how to keep them in appropriate parts of your life, and not let them take over your free time.
6. Limit your hours to what works for you. Design your own style of working, and make sure your place of work is comfortable to you.
7. Trust that you will get the right clients for your style. Be clear what your own style is, and don’t worry if it doesn’t work for some clients – refer them to someone else. Different clients need different therapy styles.
8.Learn from therapists you respect and admire, with whom you feel comfortable. If you don’t respect a theory or practice style, don’t use it. If you can modify a theory or practice style to suit you, do it.
9. Do your own work. It’s impossible to be effective as a therapist if you haven’t been in the client’s chair. You need to delve deeply into your own subconscious, so that you’ll understand your weaknesses and your strengths, and won’t be blindsided by “dark side” issues when they are triggered.
The Real 13th Step: Discovering Confidence, Self-Reliance and Independence Beyond the Twelve Step Programs presents my process for helping people in recovery heal the associated problems.
Good luck with your career.