1,012 words describing the mental health profession’s biggest problem

Some blog posts write themselves.  This is one of them.

A picture is worth a thousand words.  This one has twelve more thrown in for good measure. I can’t think of a better visual to describe a nagging problem widespread in the mental health profession.

I found this advert on Facebook for an organization that offers continuing education to psychotherapists and social workers.  I’ve chosen to omit the name of the organization that ran this ad, despite the obvious temptation to mercilessly ridicule them.

But it’s no laughing matter. There are many therapists and clinicians that think the way this ad does.  There are many social service agencies that treat their clients this way.  I have seen such clinicians and agencies. And I refuse to work for them.

Social worker training has gone to the dogs

The Humble Psychotherapist

You will notice that I have chosen the title “Humble Psychotherapist” for my professional title. There’s a reason for this.

Initially, I didn’t like the title “Psychotherapist.”  Maybe we can blame the 1960 movie “Psycho” and the horrible (though unfortunately tame by today’s standards) shower scene that the movie made famous. I was born after 1960, and I don’t know if the word “psycho” was used to describe somebody as “crazy” or “dangerous” prior to that movie, but it was well established in the vernacular by the time I was in grade school.

To me, and other people I spoke with (let’s call them my “informal focus group”) the title “psychotherapist” felt rather cold and clinical.  The title did not sound like it would easily facilitate warm, open communication that I consider critical to helping people through their issues.

At the same time, I didn’t want to use the word “counselor.”  While counseling is a big part of what I do, I was also well aware that not everyone with the word “counselor” in their title had the same extensive training that I had.

As an intern, I used the word “Therapist.”  That seemed to be a common sense decision at the time.  When I was growing up. if someone made the suggestion to “go see a therapist,” we always knew that meant seeing someone who specializes in mental health. But I’ve discovered in the last few years that whenever I’ve told people that I was a therapist, people would ask “what kind of therapist?”  I realized that for many people, the world “therapy” could also imply physical therapy.

So I began to consider the title of “psychotherapist” once again.  The Wisconsin State Statutes that govern my profession uses the word “psychotherapy,” and specifies exactly under what circumstances I can practice psychotherapy, And with the experience I’d accumulated since I began practicing psychotherapy, one of the things I realized was that people often want to know that the clinician they are working with is a competent professional, with years of study and field practice under their belt.

Realizing that the word “psychotherapist” could produce both positive and negative impressions, I decided to use the word “Psychotherapist,” but modify it with the word “Humble.”  Being a Humble Psychotherapist means that I am credentialed and professional, but I’m also very approachable.  Humble means listening before speaking. Humble means that you, as the client, have a say as to how we will work together and that the therapy room is a judgment-free zone.

So yes, “Humble Psychotherapist” is an unusual title, but I consider it to be the best description of the services I offer you.