The following was written by my colleague at Phoenix Offices, Liesl Bauer Judah, LISCW. Liesl retains all rights.
Bill wrote a “why I do what I do” and asked if others wanted to do something similar….I do find I enjoy the sound of my own voice so why not! Haha here is my semi stream of consciousness-because when do I ever do anything that isn’t stream of consciousness….
So why do I do what I do?
I believe that there is wisdom in the world. I enjoy finding it, I enjoy sharing it, I enjoy listening to and helping others find what wisdom connects with them. I would even say this is the way I connect best with others. Sharing stories meanings and wisdom. We all have stories, I like to share mine, hear others, and help people write their stories. This wisdom isn’t the same for all, and people don’t always recognize their own story or recognize that they can decide on their story-who hears their story, what the themes of their story are/become. I guess these two things are what being in this job boils down to for me. Does believing that my input and perspective (wisdom and ability to help others figure out their story) make me sound slightly big headed or holier than thou- dare I say slightly narcissistic? I would like to think it isn’t that; but confidence, belief in science, and feeling competent within my own abilities and finding a path in life that just makes sense to me. The times that I think or feel “I don’t know what the hell to do with this client” makes me pretty sure it’s not me just full of myself. Although ultimately I do believe I am pretty darn good at my job.
Everything in school (college, not before!) just made sense! Of course! Given what we have learned over the past century of scientific (?!) study of psychology and personality this is what we know to be how the brain works, how our experiences and genetics all collide to create how we operate in the world. How we experience our emotions and thoughts, and behaviors. If I could go back and re do college-and yes I know I can go back and continue my education- I would have spent a great deal more time in neuropsychology and child development. No matter how many different CEUs I go to or books I read I find they all seem to say the same thing in a slightly different way, with a slight variation on the wisdom they share. The jargon and the slight variations on saying similar things seems more about how each person or group makes sense of the wisdom, makes sense of their stories, and what resonates with those who are listening. This is not to say that the different modalities we all have are not useful, it is important to have a method that makes sense to each practitioner and it is helpful to be able to share and help others develop and examine their stories in different ways because ultimately just cause it resonates with us doesn’t mean it will resonate with our clients.
Ultimately, I do what I do because there have been times in my life where I needed someone elses guiding hand to find my story, make meaning out of experiences or share their wisdom and help me find my own. Not all of these times was it in therapy, often times it was wisdom picked up here and there from my parents, teachers, friends. Through challenging times and good times but going it alone isn’t an option and I want to be that option for those who want to utilize me. I don’t know if this is what exactly you meant Bill when you asked if others wanted to write something out but here it is.
Here are the nuggets of wisdom I come back to time and time again in my practice and own life
It is what it is, it will become what we make it. I like this one so much it’s on my wall-and I have a t-shirt…
This is not to say we cause our own suffering, or choose it, as some things are more difficult than others to make them what we want. But if we practice, we may be able to work towards this acceptance of what is and acceptance of what we make of it. This is boils down to emotional management for me. We have the emotions, we should have the emotions, but we do not have to become the emotion-sometimes this is easier than others. Sometimes the emotions get in the way or interfere in ways we don’t want. Sometimes we should become the emotions and really sit with it and experience the good and the bad.
Everyone is doing the best they can at any given moment. Even if in that moment they know a better way and are just not able to do it. Motivation, ability, and opportunity provide the chance of behavioral changes-all three are necessary, all three change and shift given the circumstances and context of any given moment.
Our behavior thoughts emotions and other bodily sensations are interconnected and influence each other. We can be “in” them or we can be standing back and aware of them. There are times when it is beneficial to be in them and times when it is beneficial to be aware of them.
We get better at what we practice, our brain is built to make pathways and connections, find patterns, and act automatically. These pathways can be beneficial and adaptive, or maladaptive and unbeneficial depending on the situation. And what is adaptive for one person or one situation may not be for a different person or in a different situation. But as I said above, everyone is doing the best they can at any given moment.
Validation. Validate, validate, validate, stop validate some more. Understand that validation is not agreement, relating, or even understanding why someone did a thing. It is expressing and believing that that person had very good reasons for doing the thing, feeling that way, thinking that way, etc
Everything is on a spectrum. Depression, anxiety, dissociation, hell maybe even hallucinations. Who hasn’t thought they heard something or thought they saw something? If I was to start talking about lice, would you not be slightly more aware of how your scalp feels, perhaps imagine feeling something crawl or itch or….? I have absolutely ZERO sense if this is correct in a scientific way btw, but even if it is a long way from the neurological basis of psychosis, is it still on the same spectrum? Maybe closer to one end than the other but still experiencing stimuli that are not there? Does anyone know if there is any research on this? How would you research this. I imagine psychedelics are involved…
FIT- one of my first jobs was for FIT (Family Integrated Transitions) but I think the word FIT is extremely important for therapy. In fact it is one of the things I make sure to talk about in every first session. If for some reason, we don’t “fit” as a therapist/client it is important to speak up. I will not take it personal, and we will find someone who does because it is important to believe that your therapist is a good fit for your personality, problems, communication style, availability, culture, modality, and, and, and I could go on and on. Not every therapist is for every client, and there are different purposes to therapy at different times and I believe that it is possible to be a good therapist for someone at one point and not the right therapist at another point. Working with kids and youth, sometimes I think my main purpose is just to provide a foundation for them to return to-with or without me- in the future.
Values- Going to an ACT training was one of many moments I have experienced where it became clear that I was in the right spot. The discussion on mindfulness and living a values led life resonated with me greatly and I look forward to a time in my life where I have more time/energy to put towards training than I do right now. I liked the idea that values are a direction we move towards, not reach. They shift over our life time depending on ages and stages we are in, they inform our decisions and can help us heal. Within this framework, so many things make sense to me.
After writing this-or most of it- I stumbled across an article about communication styles, labeled high involvement vs high consideration. Apparently back in the 80s someone identified these two patterns, which seem slightly misnamed as both styles believe they are being considerate but just show and operate it in different ways. This article was exciting and resonated with me strongly and I dug into Google to see if I could find more. It was like someone had watched me from afar when I am talking with someone and wrote down what I do. It described and gave a name for something that is inherently a part of who I am, but has also been something I worry about doing and people (three total in my life) have criticized me about. It was so wonderful to feel seen in this whole new way, to gather new wisdom to pass on and share, and to understand something about myself in a new way previously unknown to me. THIS is why I do what I do, what excites me about what I do. Those moments, where I can give someone this experience. To be seen, gather wisdom about the world and to understand themselves in new ways, and old ways, to hopefully help heal a hurt.