#4. Why Our Self-Assessment Might be a Delusion of Reality

Homer
It seems that Homer Simpson share more in common with humanity than we like to admit. Did you know that social psychologists found that in general, people rate themselves as more attractive that they really are?1

In my doctoral study of highly effective psychotherapists2, the results of an area investigated about therapists self-ratings of their Healing Involvement (HI) in therapy left us initially scratching our heads. Orlinsky and Ronnstead3 describes someone with high HI as someone who views themselves as personally invested, efficacious in relating with the client, affirming, and highly skilling, experiencing flow states in therapy, and employ constructive coping strategies. What we found was a negative relationship between their outcomes performance and HI rating. In other words, therapists who rated high on their HI scores were more likely to be less effective than their peers! How is this possible? Going further, the same group of therapists we studied, half of them rated their current effectiveness as above average. None rated below average. What’s more, these self-assessment of effectiveness ratings did not predictor their actual client outcomes. Continue reading

#3. Clinical Practice vs. Deliberate Practice

In times of change, learners inherit the Earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists. – American moral and social philosopher, Eric Hoffer (1973, p. 22)


Question: Would you hire this guy? Imagine an NBA basketball player decides that he doesn’t need training outside of competitions, because he has gotten so good at his game, and all he needs to do is continue play more game. If you own an NBA team and it’s drafting day, would you invest in this guy? Probably not. You won’t bet your money on the “Learned”, but you would do so for the “Learners”.

Many mental health professionals, counsellors, psychologists, psychiatrists, nurses, social workers, and marriage and family therapists alike, spend hundreds of hours clocking in our practicum years in order to be accredited and/or licensed to practice. Not to be confused, the word “practice” here means, well, work. It is not practice per say. It is the real deal. We end up falsely believing that since we have spend all that time in practice during our educational years, we are well equipped for the real work, that is, clinical practice. Thank goodness not everyone falls into this “Learned” group. Others whole heartedly believe that learning is lifelong. These are the “Learners”. But both “Learned” and “Learners” group have to deal with the same professional development issue: What keeps me at sharp at my skills in helping people?

It is crucial to make a distinction between work, and work that targets at getting us better at what we do. Therapists often confused that they worked hard to improve at their craft when they find themselves experiencing “flow” states during sessions. Clearly, when we are engaged in the therapeutic encounter, we strive to be fully present, attuning and relating to the emerging emotions and unfolding lived experience of this person who is in front of me seeking help and counsel. We get taken by this process, sharing a specific aim to ameliorate the person’s suffering. Continue reading

#2. The “MMI” Meetings

“Thus we are busy people just like all other busy people, rewarded for the rewards which are rewarded to busy people.” 

– Henri Nouwen, from The Way Of The Heart, p.22.

Top Secret

It is crucial to schedule time for ourselves. We know how important this is, but often more pressing issues get the better of our attention. It’s so easy to be drawn to busy-ness. But if our development is prized, we must devote a portion of our time to it. If we left it to, “I’d catch up on it when I get the time,” or “I’d squeeze so time in-between my work,” chances are, you won’t have the time. (See Cal Newport’s take on deep and intense work.)


Here’s How:

In you weekly planner, schedule at least one hour of the week called “MMI” Meeting (Me-Myself-&-I). You don’t have to explain to others what this stand for. If you can, get away your usual office space (“where are you going,” asks the inqusitive colleague. You reply, “I got a meeting to attend.”). If you are in private practice, book yourself in at the least scheduled hour by your clients. This is your protected time towards self-development.

In this weekly hour of “MMI”, you’d devote towards one of the following things:

– Reading;

– Watching therapy videos of others;

– Reviewing your recordings of your session;

– Reflection of your recent sessions; and/or

– Take a walk.

 

What Not to do:

– Check your emails (in fact, do not leave your email browser on);

– Play with your smartphone;

– See more clients.


 

Stick-It:
Write one hour into your weekly calendar, “MMI” Meeting

Once you have established your “MMI” Meeting in your schedule, resist the urge to over-ride this MMI hour. Busy-ness is the devil of development. As Henri Nouwen alluded, busy people, reap the rewards of more busy-ness.