Personal connection is crucial to our work as therapists. We know how important empathic relationships are to mental and physical health. Being fully present during our client’s healing journey is the essence of our work.
But our life relationships are much more than a means of working with clients. We need rich connections in our personal lives and with our colleagues to be good therapists. Our professional interactions help us keep well informed, well supported and well educated to do this challenging work.
Doing our best work means recognizing our own needs for support across the whole gamut of challenges in working with clients. If we have a high standard of care, we need to work through what is happening with a client — or within us – all the time.
Clinical consultation – meeting or talking with a colleague or a group about your work – can only enhance your practice as a therapist.
Common Myths about Clinical Consultation
There is no downside I can think of to bringing a case to a colleague or clinical consulting group for feedback. But too often, clinicians do not get the help they need. Either they don’t know of a safe place to turn, or something like fear holds them back.
Roadblocks and misconceptions to clinical consultations include thoughts like:
• My peers are going to judge me as inadequate
• I will feel embarrassed or ashamed
• I will be seen as less capable than my peers rather than their equal
It is normal to feel, “I don’t need this.” We may have a protective impulse to guard ourselves against the appearance of “doing things wrong.” The downside is that this fear cuts us off from what we all need in order to do the best for our clients and our profession: each other’s experience and support.
Quality Clinical Consultation is the Secret to Successful Clinical Practice
“Consultation is always an opportunity for further growth — clinically, business-wise, or both,” writes Rebecca Wong in A Therapist’s Guide to Clinical Consultation in Private Practice. “Consultation involves a collaborative discussion rather than the straight up offering and receiving of advice.”
We all need a confidant for support in a range of forms, for many reasons:
• To benefit from each other’s experience
• To talk through challenging or difficult interactions with clients
• To work through issues triggered for the therapist (countertransference)
• To learn and use new techniques to help your clients and yourself
Even today, before working on this article, I was on the phone for consultation with one of my amazing mentors. I regularly bring to her the most intricate of my complex trauma cases to process. Sometimes all that’s needed is a small amount of support. At other times, I am offered a different way of looking at something that I hadn’t thought of before.
Just having someone remind you of your strengths when you have a challenging caseload or validate that what you are doing or thinking is on target, can give you the professional encouragement you need to bring your ‘A’ game. This is support you wouldn’t have if you didn’t make consultation part of your self-care system.