Question
Asked 20th Dec, 2013

What does it take for you to detach the self from patient's problems? How do you deal with emotional load in therapy?

Please feel free to share your own experience.

Most recent answer

17th Apr, 2014
Ksenia Naboka
Goldsmiths, University of London
Thank you everyone for your contribution to this discussion!

Popular Answers (1)

3rd Jan, 2014
Scubby Mack
Dear Ksenia,
Thank you… again, your insightful question about unhappiness in the private lives of some of us. There are several thoughts that come to mind. Many of us initially explore psychology in order to seek answers to our own issues. We try to find out why we feel the way we feel. We often find ‘an’ answer… even ‘the’ answer, but then come to the realization that knowing ‘why’ doesn’t solve the problem or change the way we feel. Some of us carry the weight of our client’s problems on our shoulders and feel guilty that we haven’t been successful in solving their issues. We often dwell on the life issues of our clients and are remiss in being emotionally ‘present’ to our own loved ones and in our own personal home-lives. Additionally, and unfortunately, some of us feel that we are superior to the world around us. We wear our ‘titles’ like a crown and are unhappy because others in our lives and society in general doesn’t function the way we would like it to.
I have found, as noted in my previous post, that although I need to be the best clinician I can possibly be, I am not responsible for the results. I am not responsible for successes nor failures. The ‘foundation’ of my practice is derived from the belief that there is a Power greater than myself – and greater than my and my client’s difficulties. I try to take the attitude that I have been blessed with certain skills and I am to use those skills to the best of my ability to be of maximum service to those who have been placed in my care. At the end of the day, if I have performed to the best of my ability, then I have done all I could do – thus, I have no residual stress – and I can sleep well. I can be ‘present’ (in the here and now) to my family and friends. Additionally, when I recognize that my skills are a ‘gift’ that I have been blessed with, then I am much less prone to feel that my professional ‘title’ makes me apart from others. I am different in that we are all different. We all have abilities of one form or another, each useful to others if used appropriately. I feel happiest when I take on the ‘worker-bee’ role. Every day is a new day. I view the ‘Power-greater-than-me’ as ‘management’. I perform my work to the best of my ability. This ‘Higher Power’ takes on the responsibility for the results. I have witnessed some amazing results. But I’m not the miracle worker. I’m just the worker.
I don’t know if this is making any sense, but this method of approaching the profession has brought a sense of happiness and fulfillment. My conscience is clear. My stress level is reduced. I seem to maintain a sense of humility, and I begin to find personal answers to the internal ‘questions’ that many of us initially presented with: “Who am I and why am I here?” When I’ve done the best I can today and feel I’m on a solid ‘foundation’, then I feel comfortable in my own skin. When I take this feeling and way of interacting with others into my personal life, I seem to experience ‘happiness’. I am then emotionally present to my family. I can choose to be happy. Misery is optional. The problems are complex, but the answers are simple (though not always easy). If I dwell on the problem, the problem gets larger. If I dwell on the solution, the problem decreases. Live in the solution.
I do hope this is understandable… and helpful to your journey. I wish you peace, joy, and happiness.
6 Recommendations

All Answers (25)

23rd Dec, 2013
Krzysztof Dyga
Jagiellonian University
Meditation!
1 Recommendation
23rd Dec, 2013
Mariagrazia Bellio
Charles Sturt University
Meditation works for me too!
1 Recommendation
29th Dec, 2013
Rita Makekau
Honolulu University
Meditation and praying to my High Power.
1 Recommendation
30th Dec, 2013
Scubby Mack
Dear Ksenia,
Thank you for this excellent question. Although I know your question is not necessarily related to addictions, counselors of all sorts are prone to develop issues with co-dependency. With that in mind, I recommend an article from the Journal of Addictive Disorders titled: “Codependency among health care professionals: Is an understanding of codependency issues important to the therapeutic counseling process?” http://breining.edu/JAD11bHSO.pdf
One of the recommendations in the article is one that I have found particularly helpful, and that is developing a rapport with other therapists and setting a time/place to meet regularly with them. Meeting for lunch once a week works very well. We don’t talk about clients - we talk about ‘us’ and how we are feeling. It’s a great stress reducer – particularly since we begin to know each other fairly well and can watch for changes in demeanor, attitude, behavior, etc. Often just knowing that our weekly gathering will occur soon begins the process of stress relief.
And yes, being ‘still’ inside (meditating), contemplating, and deferring to a Power greater than myself, is always beneficial.
I hope you may find this helpful.
2 Recommendations
30th Dec, 2013
Krzysztof Dyga
Jagiellonian University
Yes! I forgot, but there is also one, very helpful, even necessary thing - Balint's group!
1 Recommendation
31st Dec, 2013
Elena Bouleanu
Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu
In my practice I use a symbolic gest - washing hands - after a meeting with a client. Of course meditation is necessary (sometimes 5 or 10 minutes between two clients). Using mindfulness and it helps me very much and also writing about my feelings, thoughts and believes.
2 Recommendations
31st Dec, 2013
Ksenia Naboka
Goldsmiths, University of London
Thank you all for your answers! Especially to Mr Mack for his kind recommendations : ) I found it especially relevant as codependency appear to devour females attention with more strength.
Another personal question to the readers, if nobody minds:
People say psychologists have unhappy private life. May be true for some but not others, nevertheless, there must be some prevailing tendency? What were your observations on this account?
1 Recommendation
2nd Jan, 2014
Scubby Mack
Dear Ksenia,
Thank you for your kind words. Also, thank you for your question concerning “unhappiness” in the private lives of psychologists. I have several thoughts on the issue, but before expressing them, I would appreciate it if you could be more specific and narrow the topic to the types of private life concerns you are interested in questioning. Thank you.
2nd Jan, 2014
Ksenia Naboka
Goldsmiths, University of London
Dear Mack, I guess this will be the topic of a family life and close relationships : )
1 Recommendation
3rd Jan, 2014
Scubby Mack
Dear Ksenia,
Thank you… again, your insightful question about unhappiness in the private lives of some of us. There are several thoughts that come to mind. Many of us initially explore psychology in order to seek answers to our own issues. We try to find out why we feel the way we feel. We often find ‘an’ answer… even ‘the’ answer, but then come to the realization that knowing ‘why’ doesn’t solve the problem or change the way we feel. Some of us carry the weight of our client’s problems on our shoulders and feel guilty that we haven’t been successful in solving their issues. We often dwell on the life issues of our clients and are remiss in being emotionally ‘present’ to our own loved ones and in our own personal home-lives. Additionally, and unfortunately, some of us feel that we are superior to the world around us. We wear our ‘titles’ like a crown and are unhappy because others in our lives and society in general doesn’t function the way we would like it to.
I have found, as noted in my previous post, that although I need to be the best clinician I can possibly be, I am not responsible for the results. I am not responsible for successes nor failures. The ‘foundation’ of my practice is derived from the belief that there is a Power greater than myself – and greater than my and my client’s difficulties. I try to take the attitude that I have been blessed with certain skills and I am to use those skills to the best of my ability to be of maximum service to those who have been placed in my care. At the end of the day, if I have performed to the best of my ability, then I have done all I could do – thus, I have no residual stress – and I can sleep well. I can be ‘present’ (in the here and now) to my family and friends. Additionally, when I recognize that my skills are a ‘gift’ that I have been blessed with, then I am much less prone to feel that my professional ‘title’ makes me apart from others. I am different in that we are all different. We all have abilities of one form or another, each useful to others if used appropriately. I feel happiest when I take on the ‘worker-bee’ role. Every day is a new day. I view the ‘Power-greater-than-me’ as ‘management’. I perform my work to the best of my ability. This ‘Higher Power’ takes on the responsibility for the results. I have witnessed some amazing results. But I’m not the miracle worker. I’m just the worker.
I don’t know if this is making any sense, but this method of approaching the profession has brought a sense of happiness and fulfillment. My conscience is clear. My stress level is reduced. I seem to maintain a sense of humility, and I begin to find personal answers to the internal ‘questions’ that many of us initially presented with: “Who am I and why am I here?” When I’ve done the best I can today and feel I’m on a solid ‘foundation’, then I feel comfortable in my own skin. When I take this feeling and way of interacting with others into my personal life, I seem to experience ‘happiness’. I am then emotionally present to my family. I can choose to be happy. Misery is optional. The problems are complex, but the answers are simple (though not always easy). If I dwell on the problem, the problem gets larger. If I dwell on the solution, the problem decreases. Live in the solution.
I do hope this is understandable… and helpful to your journey. I wish you peace, joy, and happiness.
6 Recommendations
3rd Jan, 2014
Ksenia Naboka
Goldsmiths, University of London
Thank you for an answer, Mack. And for all the contributions to this small and easy topic : )
It is relieving to receive an advice from somebody who remained for a while in the field!
1 Recommendation
6th Jan, 2014
Professor Dr. G.Hussein Rassool
Riphah International University
This is when it should be mandatory for counsellors and psychotherapist to have clinical supervision. This could be individual or group clinical supervsion.
1 Recommendation
7th Jan, 2014
Scubby Mack
Dear Ksenia,
Overall it is a wonderful profession. I wish for you that you will find peace, joy, love, and happiness on your journey.
7th Jan, 2014
Scubby Mack
Oh... and in this profession there is no such thing as a small easy topic...! When it seems to be so, I've always discovered great depth and significance.... :)
2 Recommendations
7th Jan, 2014
Ksenia Naboka
Goldsmiths, University of London
Sometimes psychology is digging too much, in my opinion. We try to define new types of personality, find another correlations and causations… but every individual have an entire unknown world inside. It is extremely hard to be validate anything but obvious things. I always question myself if it would have been better just to remain a compassionate listener, who simply assist people with facing their fears. Instead of spending funds on conducting a numerous research studies, why can't we work with the life cases…
1 Recommendation
8th Jan, 2014
Scubby Mack
Dearest Ksenia,
I am so sorry for your plight. I have been blessed to be in the field for my career. As I said earlier... yes, we can find answers. We can find causal factors and correlations. We can call sets of symptoms a new 'personality type'. Yet, our findings do nothing to relieve the client's pain. The funny thing is that another set of clinicians will observe the client and come up with a different diagnosis - equally valid - yet that finding too will not relieve the client's discomfort. We are in the profession because we desire to be helpful to others. Whatever the complexity of the problem, the answer is usually very simple, but not usually easy. Helping people discover the simple answers to their complex problems has been very satisfying. I know that you are still a compassionate listener who helps people face their fears. I know that you have helped many and will find a way to continue to do so. Research aside, helping people is what we do. Your work now will give you a depth of knowledge that will enable you to be of still greater assistance to others in the not to distant future. Early on, when I had fear of entering new situations that, although educated, I felt inadequate to perform (there was no one else to go), my spiritual adviser told me: "They don't care how much you know, but they will know how much you care."
I know I may not understand your specific situation, but --- I know your talent is needed, and I know you care.......... Thank you for all you do for others.
3 Recommendations
8th Jan, 2014
Ksenia Naboka
Goldsmiths, University of London
Thank you, Mack, for being so tender and open with others. Can't really find enough words to express my gratitude for your answers!
I would love to address your last message to all psychologists on the forum… : )
1 Recommendation
18th Feb, 2014
Barry Hammer
Graduate Theological Union, Harvard Divinity School, University of Maine
I found the comments by Scubby Mack, Ksenia, and Maria to be very helpful and insightful. Psychotherapists should occasionally undergo psychotherapy themselves and examine their own unresolved egocentric psychological needs, motivations, and perceptions that may produce inappropriate transference or distorted projection of their own psychological dynamics onto clients, which may impede the therapist's ability to be truly helpful to the client. Therapists who find themselves becoming personally upset, defensively insecure, embarrassed, and/or fatigued by their work with clients should explore how that contact may be triggering doubts about their own sense of identity, judgmental self-evaluations, unpleasant memories, painful feelings, and other uncomfortable experiential states that may not necessarily be pertinent to understanding and healing the client's own psychological issues. When therapists openly explore and resolve these kinds of self-induced psychological issues, that can enable them to view clients in a more realistic, compassionate, empathically understanding, manner, and thereby respond to clients in a more appropriate, truly therapeutic way. Although egocentric reactivity by the therapist can be an impediment to effective psychotherapy, taking a cold, detached, uncaring, "professional" stance toward clients can also very much detract from the effectiveness of psychotherapy work. Clients who pick up that kind of coldly detached attitude may likely feel uncomfortable baring their intense feelings, needs, and experiential dynamics, reciprocating or mirroring the therapist's emotional unavailability. That lack of caring empathic communion between client and therapist can prevent liberating insight and cathartic release of energy invested in blocked feelings that the client does not feel comfortable sharing with a therapist who they perceive as coldly detached and uncaring. However, when the client experiences genuine warmhearted caring, compassion, empathic understanding, and deeply invested "good listening" on the part of the therapist, without intrusion of egocentric self-awareness and narcissistic emotional reactions or irrelevant speculative intellectual interpretations, then that warmly caring energy can function like a melting process or "lubricant" to get the client's "frozen" blocked energy to become more fluid, free flowing, unblocked, which can produce a cathartic release of blocked subconscious painful feelings and experiential states associated with that psychological energy.
My late father, Dr. Max Hammer, was a distinguished psychotherapist, supervisor of graduate psychotherapy interns, and professor of clinical psychology at the University of Maine, who gained these and many other transformational liberating insights by being open to the experiential truth of himself in his personal life as well as in his psychotherapy practice. I have recently published two books, based on an earlier incomplete manuscript originally written by my father and his colleague, Dr. Alan C. Butler. These books, and some related blogs, provide more detailed and extremely helpful insights into the process of effective psychotherapy, psychological self-help, relationship counseling, and how to improve one's own personal relationships. The titles of these books are,
1) Psychological Healing Through Creative Self-Understanding and Self-Transformation
(ISBN: 978-1-62857-075-5)
2) Deepening Your Personal Relationships: Developing Emotional Intimacy and Good Communication. (ISBN: 978-1-61897-590-4)
These books are available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or my father's author webpage, http://sbprabooks.com/MaxHammer. That author webpage provides a more detailed description of the books and authors, as well as links to my related blogs and BlogSpot radio issues, which also address topics that are applicable to effective psychotherapy, psychological self-help, creative self-actualization, relationship counseling, improving one's own personal relationships, as well as applying principles of optimal living and optimal personal relationship to compassionate social transformation.
1 Recommendation
31st Mar, 2014
Morris Mosley
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
The instillation of hope begins for the client by scheduling an appointment. This gives some indication of the power of hope and the symbolic gesture. This is revisited throughout the therapeutic relationship.
I try to incorporate the symbolic gesture when dealing with the emotional load.
As I plant in my garden, I pause, to assign my burdens to the holes that I've dug for myself...place the plant and back-fill.
If the plant thrives, I accept that it has made better use of my burden than I.
If the plants struggles, I accept that I did not leave it in a good place, and I revisit the burden as I move the plant to a better location.
If the plant dies...well, then he took one for the team.
1 Recommendation

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