Psychology is all about variety. There are a variety of techniques, orientations and formats. Every psychologist also has their own style or way of approaching therapy. My own personal style is probably closest to”person-centred.” I thought it might be interesting to record what my current guiding rules and philosophies are that fit under this broad umbrella, so I can look back and see whether they have changed or developed as time passes. So without further ado, here are the personal “rules” I try to follow as a psychologist:
- Competence. People are incredibly resilient and just waiting to surprise you with their strength and capabilities if you will only let them. Always let them.
- Expertise. The psychologist and the client are experts. Work together with the client. Acknowledge that you do not know everything.
- ‘Crazy’ is just a construct. Not one I believe in, nor one that I find helpful. Every behaviour serves a function. The question is whether the behaviour still serves a function now and if it’s negatively impacting the client and/or the people around them.
- Feedback. Essential. Ongoing. From psychologist to client and client to psychologist; from psychologist to supervisor and supervisor to psychologist. Should cover everything from what is and isn’t working, to where things are headed next.
- Individualised. Evidence based practice is important but needs to be applied and adapted to suit the individual.
- Alliance. Again and again science tells us that the relationship between the client and psychologist is important to therapy outcome. Respect that. Work on it.
- Keep it real. Few paths in life follow a straight line. Therapy is not easy. No one is perfect. Always be yourself. Applicable to the psychologist and the client.
- Know thyself. Therapy does not happen in a vacuum. As a psychologist, be aware of how your practice is affecting you and respond appropriately.
- Walk with, not for. The job of a psychologist is to walk alongside the client, to assist them in identifying possible choices and consequences, to make and review changes, to learn alternate strategies and better understand themselves. Walking alongside someone in this journey is a privilege, one that can be both rewarding and challenging.
These are the principles that I think guide me now. It’d be fair to say that there’s a fair bit of overlap between how I try to approach therapy and how I go about everyday life. Trying to piece together whether these values and ideas originated prior to, during or after my training is a bit like trying to decide what came first, the chicken or the egg? And that’s probably not a bad thing. As Oscar Wilde said, “be yourself, everyone else is already taken.” As it was drummed into me really early on in my training, you the person and you the psychologist should be quite similar.
Are these “rules” surprising to you? Different from yours?