My specialism is helping by example

How many therapists' does it take to change a light bulb? 

Only one, but the therapist has to change first.

This is helping by example. The therapist changes first in order to facilitate a change for the customer.

'What are you getting paid for?’ I heard myself ask. I looked around to see who was listening. Quickly realising I was facilitating a group and had not prepared this intervention. I noticed how the group had gone silent and its customers looked towards me. Patiently waiting for me to answer my own question. I stumbled ‘I am paid to lead’. Lead with what? ‘Lead with my vulnerability.’ I stumbled again, ‘I am paid to trust you before you trust me.’ It sounded good enough. Relieved, myself and the group relaxed. The conversation moved on but the question, for me, remained. What am I actually getting paid for?

What do I do that has a monetary value beyond that of the customer? It is also a challenge for the customer. Couldn't you get that elsewhere? What about cheaper or free?  Why, sometimes, it may be a good use of your money to pay for a psychologist. At the very least, I hope you will agree, it is always a good idea to know what we are paying for when we are buying something.'


I change first


'In therapy the customer gets the credit. The therapist succeeds by failing the customer's way. Bearing the consequence of that failure. Namely redundancy from temporary employment. In my experience this is a disciplined and effective way of being with people. Admitting our mistakes and trying not to repeat them. Accepting the complaint, anger and disappointment of the customer without retaliation. Responding in an adult way to the customers corrective criticism. Exploring what has happened between us. Breaking the comfortable lock of complementarity. Letting go of a fantasy of being the complete, innocent, blameless therapist. In these ways the therapist is paid to change, in order to help the customer. And so in the end, my first answer to the group was not a bad stab at the value added. What am I getting paid for? Paid to lead with my vulnerability, then to follow yours, to a place of greater psychological health.' 

This is summary is drawn from my full article What are you getting paid for?


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©2020 Dr Andrew Perry, Linlithgow, Scotland