Jeff Guenther on Jan 20, 2019
(Editor’s Note: This blog is meant to be a satire. The character of a bizarre and narcissistic therapist giving weirdly horrible advice is just for fun.)
Learning the latest treatment interventions isn’t enough. Creating a trusting relationship and good rapport isn’t sufficient. If you want to be the best therapist then you need to be excellent at the most important things. The things I am about to cover may seem small to you. They may seem insignificant. But they are not. And if you haven’t realized how extremely important the following items are…well…I feel bad for your clients. I’m sad that they received such careless counseling. But guess what? Things can change. You can grow as a therapist. You don’t have to be so clueless anymore. The following things are the most important things to know. Your job is to practice my advice every day until you perfect it. Your obligation is to share this advice with every single counselor that you know. This is very serious stuff. So listen up!
Hey we can’t be perfect, right? Even I forget the names of people my clients bring up in session every now and then. You don’t need to have a perfect memory in order to be the best therapist. I am hands down the best therapist in Portland. There is no doubt about that. You can ask anyone in Oregon. I might be the best in the world, actually. But every now and then a client will be talking about their new boyfriend, or their new best friend or their childhood hero and I go blank and have no idea what the name of the person they are referencing is. And the worst is that I know they have repeated this name many times in session. Usually it’s no big deal because why do I need to even say the name out loud? If it’s their boyfriend, I can just reference the person by calling them their “boyfriend.” But every now and then your client will test you and they’ll say something like, “Hey remember how we were talking about Brad last week?” And you’ll think, “Who the hell is Brad?! I know he’s important but I have no idea what role this person plays in their life!”
Whatever you do, do not let the client know you don’t know who Brad is. You’ll lose trust immediately and then you’ll never be able to positively influence them ever again. It’s sad but true. And don’t make an educated guess about who Brad is. There is a chance you’ll get it wrong and you just can’t afford to take that chance. The only thing you really can do, and should do, is tell them that they’ve never mentioned Brad before. Say it with a straight face. Don’t lose eye contact. Appear confident. Your sureness will throw them off so much that they’ll start to wonder if they ever brought up Brad in the first place. Then push back on them and ask them questions about why they never brought up Brad. Don’t go on the attack too much. Stay compassionate. Just be sure never to give in. Is this ethical? No. It’s 100% not. But if you want to keep your authority in the relationship it must be done.
Have you ever sneezed in front of your client? I truly hope not. Do you know what your body and face look like when you’re scrunched in a chair and listening intently and then all of a sudden you violently sneeze like a crazy person? You don’t want to know. Trust me. And neither do your clients. The fastest way to lose cred and look like an unprofessional moron is to allow your body to convulse and spray germs all over the room. Or even worse, blow your snotty germs into your hand and then be forced to sit there with a disgusting and mucus filled hand for the rest of the session while your client wonders what the hell you’re going to wipe it on.
The only thing you can do is not sneeze. If you want to have any chance at keeping your client you must hold it in. When I feel a sneeze coming on I hold it back. I don’t let it come out even one bit. I suck it back into my body with my face muscles and willpower. You must do the same. This does cause my eyes to well up and my face to turn red. But I can then use those tears to connect emotionally with the client. I practice at home whenever ever I feel a sneeze coming on. I haven’t sneezed in over 15 years. If you care about your clients you’ll do the same. I hope.
I experience this one a lot. I am truly a life changing therapist and when I get going in session I just feel like I’m in the zone, you know? It’s like I’m Michael Jordan or LeBron James and every shot I toss up goes in. It’s like something takes over and the words I’m saying are the most healing words a person can say. I don’t expect any of you to understand this feeling but that’s fine. I imagine other therapists can sorta get close to it. At least I hope so. But my ability comes with a curse. I don’t always remember what I said the next time I see a client. And more often than not, the client heard my wise words and either made a huge life changing decision or they’ve seen the light and now feel totally cured. And of course they want to come back in and talk more about it. They want me to expand on my message. But I have no idea what I said.
Here is what you need to do when something like that occurs. Ask the client to repeat it back in their own words. Let them know that it’s okay if they can’t remember it verbatim. If they say they can’t recall, then you should ever so slightly shame them for not holding on to your wisdom. Just a small bit of shame. Don’t go crazy. This will cause them to think harder and come up with something so they don’t get shamed by you again. Once they tell you what they think you said, agree with every word and praise them for getting it right. It doesn’t matter if it sounds nothing like what you said. The most important part is that the client gets to feel like your sage advice was inside them the whole time.
I was visiting with my therapist friend Stephanie drinking coffee in her office. When we were done visiting she told me that sometimes she stays seated in her chair and reaches over to open the door while the client stands up and walks out of the office. In fact, this is how we ended our visit. I’m pretty sure I’ll never see her again. I lost all respect for her and the power dynamic shifted so abruptly that I really don’t think I could look at her in the face without feeling disgust ever again. She should be embarrassed. And if you’re a therapist that stays seated in your chair looking like a complete idiot and giving all the power to your client then you’re not worth the paper that your license is printed on. I have never been more sure about anything in my entire life. When the session ends you MUST stand up before your client does and then hold the door open and watch them walk out. Nod your head ever so slightly while they walk past. And say, “Have a good week.” But say it with the just slightest bit of sarcasm. It needs to be very slight. So slight that they’ll question whether or not you were being genuine and then they’ll probably just shake it off and think they’re being paranoid or something. If you do that after every session, you’ll keep the power and become the best therapist. In order to be the best you must never be like Stephanie. I hope she is happy in her next career.
First of all, it’s rude to yawn when a client is talking to you. That’s just obvious. Your client will think you’re bored of them and then they’ll question whether they are interesting enough for you and they’ll probably never be genuine again due to the fear of your dreaded yawn. It’s a horrible consequence. So whatever you do, you must not yawn. The thing is, when a yawn is about to happen we usually catch it way too late. If you try to stop the yawn from happening when it’s too late then your face gets distorted and scrunched up, which makes you look like you’ve just held in a fart. Which might be even worse then letting out a full yawn in the first place. Don’t get me started on farting in session.
You have two options in order to never yawn. You can either drink one full cup of coffee before every session, which is what I do and highly recommend it. Or you can constantly press your tongue to the roof of your mouth. If your tongue is securely pressed to the top of your mouth, then you’re physically unable to yawn. It does make it very difficult to talk but that’s really secondary to never yawning in my opinion. You’re welcome for that tip!
Last and definitely not least, the most important thing you can do to be an amazing therapist is to create a profile with TherapyDen. You’ll get six months free if you join now. But I bet you’ll decide to stay much longer. Sure, you’ll get new clients, but what you will feel the best about is that all clients, no matter their gender identity, ethnicity, sexual orientation or presenting problem will be able to use the forward thinking search filters to find a good match.
Jeff Guenther, LPC, is a therapist in Portland, OR. He has been in private practice since 2005. Jeff is the creator and owner of Portland Therapy Center, a highly ranked therapist directory. Jeff, and his team, have launched a new progressive therapist directory, TherapyDen.