Being a Psychotherapist 3 - Humility
This is the third reflection in my series about being a psychotherapist. Today I want to talk about humility, picking up on the final theme of my last blog.
I love my job. I venture to think I'm mostly quite good at it. However, I have my moments. Like anyone else, I am very far from perfect. Sometimes I make mistakes. Sometimes I'm tired, preoccupied or unwell, just enough to not be at my best, but not so much as to mean I would cancel my clients. Then, try as I might, I may not be in flow.
What matters in psychotherapy is being real. Being who and how I am, authentically. So do I share my issues? No. Being real as a clinician is not about bringing me and my narrative or concerns into the room, therapy is about my client's life, not mine.
What being real does mean is being honest about what is happening in the room, and the dynamic relationship that is unfolding. When I am not fully attuned, I need to acknowledge that. It may be enough to acknowledge it within myself and refocus, and if so, that is what I do.
Sometimes though, it may be that I need to explore with my client the rupture that arises when I miss a cue, make a blunder, yawn, or otherwise seem not to be fully present. Thankfully an infrequent experience, it would be madness to pretend these things don’t happen for any practitioner, they do.
In psychotherapy we aim to provide reparative relational experiences. We seek to offer a different way of relating that enables clients to internalise secure attachment experiences, and then to take those out into their lives where appropriate and useful.
Healthy relationships are in large part about our ability to have a rupture and then to repair it. To relate well we need to separate out the behaviour from the person, to be able to hold the other with love and compassion while simultaneously addressing what they did.
To do this, we need to be alive to the relational field of which we are a part, and responsible not just for our intention, but more importantly for our impact. We need to be spontaneous and lively with our humility, to take ownership and role model what it means to say sorry and to maintain a relational bond through difficult conversations.
It is the relationship that heals, but only if we approach it with humility and care, and take ownership for our part in the dynamic that is arising. If we want clients to bring their best self into relationship with us and out in their lives, we first have to do this with them.