Dr. Karin Lawson, a psychologist in Ft. Lauderdale, FL is a beautiful evangelist for consultation groups for therapists. And guess what, we are too! So, we are excited to share a guest post about why you should consider joining or starting a consultation group stat!
Therapists are not in consultation groups. Okay, I’m making generalities, but word on the street is that you’re lonely in your practice, yearning for a supportive, non-judgmental group of professionals. Sometimes conversations about your work, with colleagues or friends in the field, feel competitive and loaded with comparison. You want to bounce creative ideas, think through the sticky situations, and have a group hold your feet to the fire in your clinical growth. Yet . . . you’re not in a consultation group for therapists. Does the ideal group sound like a pipe dream? Are they just not as common in our day and age?
The Australian Psychological Society (2008) defined peer consultation groups, as:
“a process of peers consulting with peers in a non-hierarchical fashion . . . This involves the practice of fully qualified and often highly experienced practitioners working collaboratively to access and share information, discuss opinions, receive support, monitor best practice and obtain a rigorous evaluation of their own professional activities within a professional context.”
Therapist Support Group or Peer Consultation Group?
Truth is that for generations of well-versed clinicians, being a member of a trusted consultation group was non-negotiable. The experience can be such a unique blend of vulnerability, validation, and support . . . many facets of support groups. Obviously, the intention is different than a support group, but the support is there. In fact, many seasoned therapists in private practice have been a part of a single peer consultation group for decades. Talk about depth and trust and cohesion! This post isn’t about why we got away from that model of working, as much as the important reasons to redirect ourselves back to that opportunity to become “super shrinks.” Miller, Hubble, and Duncan (2007) explored what seems to make the best therapists, the best therapists. They narrowed their understanding down to 5 main points. Interestingly, all can be fostered well in therapist consultation groups. Those five qualities of what they deemed “super shrinks” included:
- Proactively seeking feedback
- Thoughtful reflection
- Using tools to establish a baseline of clinical performance (i.e. outcome assessment)
- Engaging in forethought about the next step in the development
- Reflecting on the means to improve in the next session
Falender & Shafranske (2012) also chimed in and recognized three similar “benchmarks of competence” for therapists: self-reflection, self-assessment, and self-care.
I’m going to assume that all therapists can agree that these are good things, potentially vital pieces of effective and meaningful work. Yet, I think it’s common to not prioritize and make appropriate space for these parts of our work . . . to keep ourselves supported and in check.
Since self-reflection is one of those top qualities/skills to possess as a “competent super shrink”, I want to encourage you to engage in some self-reflection right now:
- What are your barriers to finding or creating a consultation group for therapists? (e.g. time, desire, group space, energy, people who are a good fit)
- What does your ideal peer consultation group look like? (e.g. frequency of meeting, number of people in the group, heterogeneous or homogenous theoretical orientations of members, wine and cheese, risk-taking, diverse client populations represented…)
- What anxieties or hesitations do you have about being a part of a peer consultation group?
While I have a lot more to share on this topic, I wanted to whet your appetite and start the wheels turning. I believe that this is an important missing for too many therapists. I want us all to be the best therapists we can be and there’s something really yummy that can be done about that.
To dive in more and consider what your next steps are, check out my page on Support for Therapist Consultation Groups at https://drkarinlawson.com/peer-consultation-support/ or check out the references below!
Australian Psychological Society (APS). (2008). APS peer consultation network guidelines. Retrieved February 1, 2018, from www.psychology.org.au
Miller, S., Hubble, M., & Duncan, B. (2007, November-December). Supershrinks: What’s the secret of their success? Psychotherapy Networker. Retrieved from http://www.scottmiller.com/lq=node/4
Falender, C. A., & Shafranske, E. P. (2012). The importance of competency-based clinical supervision and training in the twenty-first century: Why bother? Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy: On the Cutting Edge of Modern Developments in Psychotherapy, 42(3), 129-137.