A New Year for Psychotherapists By Victor Yalom, PhD on 1/4/17 - 1:15 PM

I was just on the phone with Peter Levine discussing a new video we are making  using his Somatic Experiencing approach to working with pain. I started to tell him that we want to release the video next year….and I caught myself as I realized that next year is now this year. Hello 2017! I still remember my kindergarten teacher writing 1964 on the board after our Christmas vacation, and I was so surprised. How could it be a new year? What did that even mean?

Which brings us back to the current state of things. Yes it’s an arbitrary date on our western calendar, but it is the calendar we live by. The earth has completed its little jaunt around our sun. And yes, there are possibly billions of other suns around the universe, and who knows how many planets circling those stars. But this is our little planet until we destroy it, and this is my life, and this is our new year. What am I going to make of it?

Here are a few things that come to mind, in no particular order:

1. Continue to make psychotherapy videos. In our pipeline for 2017 we have video series on Emotionally Focused Therapy Step-by-Step, Irvin Yalom on the Art of Psychotherapy, Diagnostic Interviewing and the DSM-5, Motivational Interviewing for Adolescents, and that’s just for starters. After 20 years of making training videos, we are pushing and stretching ourselves to move beyond single or multiple session videos, and trying to break down the specific skills needed to improve therapeutic efficacy.
2. Keep working on my tennis game. This has been a longer work in progress than #1 above, and the results so far less impressive. But suddenly I’m feeling a sense of urgency, as I know eventually that any increase in skills will be offset by a decrease in agility, given that I’ve survived 57 rotations of our planet going around our sun.
3. Paint and make more wooden spoons and bowls , and perhaps learn welding so I can make some metal sculptures.
4. Enjoy watching my children become adults.
5. Spend less time staring on my computer. Now that’s a challenging goal.
6. Perhaps write more blogs. Starting now.

In many ways I’m just going to continue what I’m doing. I’ll take that as a good sign that my life is not in need of a radical change. But I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

And what about you? For those of you who are practicing therapists, what is in store for you in this coming year? What tweaks do you wish to make in your work and personal lives? What will make you more effective, and more satisfied? How you will actually increase your skills as a therapist? I just conducted an interview (not yet published) with my friend Tony Rousmaniere, and the research seems fairly clear that simply reading books or attending workshops, or even more clinical experience does not lead to increased efficacy. He has some great ideas in his new book Deliberate Practice for Psychotherapists.

Is your practice running you, or are you running it? Are you seeing the number and types of clients you really want? If not—and I imagine for most of us it’s not the perfect mix—what can you do to move it towards your ideal? Are you getting the collegial support you need to avoid the pitfall of isolation? Looking back on my 25 years of private practice, I realize I was more isolated than I would have liked, and would have benefitted from much more peer interaction. Live and learn. What other passions are you pursuing? What would you like to do this year—or not do—so that when the calendar turns to 2018 you can look back and think “this was a year fully lived”?

File under: Musings and Reflections