I just got off the phone with a client and am in deep reflection mode about just how powerful the words that I speak are to those I serve. Every single response that I have towards what clients tell me has an influence on them, whether we are conscious of it. When speaking to clients about major life issues, such as when they are at a crossroads in their relationships, jobs, or whatever else, my words have the potential to have a huge impact on them. Whether it's comfortable to admit or not, this is power over another, and it's something I take VERY seriously. I always work consciously from a place of attempting to empower my clients rather than have them become dependent on me, but the basic nature of the therapist-client relationship is that they are depending on me on some level.
When giving a strong opinion to someone, even though we try to work from a place of having our clients' best interest in mind, we always need to be mindful of the impact that it may have on their life. What may have worked for us in our own lives, what may have worked for other clients, or simply what best practice is based on our training - none of this means that it is necessarily right for the other person. They ultimately need to make their own decisions and choices.
Some therapists are so intent on avoiding this dynamic so they minimize giving advice as much as possible. However, the essential therapist-client relationship is based on one person seeking help and the other person supporting, so it's never possible to completely avoid this power differential.
I am confident in my own skills and wisdom (and clearly market my offerings as such) that I am not someone who avoids giving advice if I really do feel that it has the potential to positively impact someone.
As an aside - I have spoken about this before, but this astrological shift from the age of Pisces to the age of Aquarius will see the end of hierarchical power structures and power differentials. Just how in the medical field we are seeing regular folks empowering themselves with their own health information and really questioning the validity of doctors, etc, the same thing should be happening in the field of mental health.
Certainly with the rise of the self-help movement, many of us are attempting to empower ourselves with the own skills that we need to be successful and happy human beings. However, I do believe that the role of the therapist is still useful and relevant right now. We all need support sometimes, and it's not always possible to get through certain things on our own. Seeking support from others is not a weakness. Even if we feel really strong and empowered, it's still difficult to see outside of ourselves from a neutral perspective, without all of our conditioning.
With that being said, I wish to encourage those who are therapists to 1) consistently reflect on the power that they have in changing the lives of clients, 2) always work from a place of empowering others to the best of their ability, and 3) constantly be doing their own work on themselves.
And honestly, I have to say this really clearly - it worries me that just anyone can become a 'coach' these days. While on the one hand I think it's great that so many people have a desire to help others, without proper psychological training, individuals working in this capacity may unintentionally be harming people. Even the best coaching programs I've looked at just do not have the depth of training that psychologists have to go through.
Psychology is not perfect. There is a lot that's still broken in the field, and part of the reason that I've expanded my transformational tools way outside of the box of psychology is because traditional therapy alone does not have all the answers. HOWEVER, I did go through years of training, practicums, and internships before I was even allowed to practice, and I do think that having standards, regulations, and specific ethical training is essential before working with others. Again, it comes back to the realization of just how much influence and power we have over other people when working in this capacity.
Ultimately, it's up to the client to decide who they want to work with - but at least from my perspective, I've been trained to take what I do very seriously.
With all of that being said, I fully acknowledge that there are some bad psychologists out there and some really amazing coaches. I am not trying to bad mouth coaches, but what I share above is a legitimate worry of mine.
Ultimately, I leave it up to the client to trust their own intuition. While it's important for therapists, coaches, etc. to always check themselves in terms of how they practice, it's equally important for clients to choose to work with people who make them feel supported, comfortable, and who are actually helping them achieve their goals, and find someone else if this is not happening.
I'm really interested to hear what you have to say about the power of therapists, coaches, etc. Have you worked with someone who has had an amazing, powerful impact on your life? Or conversely, have you worked with someone who negatively impacted you? I would love to hear in the comments below!