Call me naive. I am still taken aback when therapists—who are trained to be empathic, to start where the client is, to put aside their own values—are agonizingly judgmental of their own kind.

Perhaps it is because we all to some extent have a professional persona that is different from how we are with our friends and family. So maybe when we are “on,” we’re able to keep the judgment out of the conversation, but when we’re on our own time we forget? (Although truth be told I’ve heard stories from my clients of previous therapists who were painfully judgmental even with their clients in the therapy room.)

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I am a little weary of hearing comments like the following in therapist-oriented conversations, podcasts, and discussion groups:

“I don’t see how anyone can do trauma work without discussing issues of [race, family of origin, body image, etc.].”

“I don’t know how I was even effective before I learned [name of technique]!”

“If you haven’t done [name of method I personally use], you haven’t done couples counseling.”

 

These indirect digs at other therapists hurt. Too often, I’ve left Facebook groups that turned into feeding frenzies; I’ve even witnessed therapists chased off such groups for not falling into line on some issue or other. This problem seems even worse when social and political issues enter into the discussions. Did you know that it’s possible to be a social worker and also, for example, be pro-life? Or to be a couples counselor who believes in polyamory, or one who doesn’t? We can discuss and debate these issues at great length. Is it really necessary for colleagues to belittle and besmirch those who disagree with each other? (Answer: no!)

Friends, let’s please not do this to each other. There’s more than one way to skin a catharsis. In fact, there are many. New evidence-based modalities are coming out every year, and research has shown that the style of therapy being used has surprisingly little impact on client outcomes relative to the relationship between client and clinician. This means that the modality one clinician uses isn’t any better than what the therapist down the street uses. You can do you, and I can do me, and let’s all do what we can to help those who are seeking our help.

I frequently let my clients know that if what I’m doing doesn’t work for them, there are other clinicians out there with different styles and techniques, and I would be more than happy to make a referral if they’d like to try something I can’t offer. I wish more therapists had an equally pluralistic view of the range of therapy models out there and the clinicians who practice them.

Neither am I, for my part, judging those therapists. I am dismayed by their perspective and by their parochialism, but I understand that they, too, are coming from somewhere—whether it is their own pain, insecurity, dogmatic upbringing, or training. I am not denouncing as much as I am asking for change in the way (some, but not all) clinicians relate to each other (especially on social media).

Whether a clinician uses CBT or EMDR, whether they lean psychodynamic or experiential, whether they consider themselves client-centered or systems-oriented, there’s room at the table for all. And since the demand for mental health care has exploded these past few years, with no sign of letting up any time soon, the time seems particularly right for putting a few more chairs around that table. We want you at the table. We need you at the table.

There is enough ugliness and pain in the world without professionals who share the core values of empathy and compassion turning on each other. We don’t need Twitter-shaming. We don’t need the public call-outs. We don’t need the passive insinuations. What we need is for clinicians to value and honor each other, and the contributions they each make to the greater good. When we do this, the profession is a far richer one, and the community of care expands rather than constricts.

Diversity is not just about race or gender. Every person’s unique self—this is true of clients and clinicians alike — is worthy of admiration and esteem. Synergizing our strengths makes this world a better place, one session at a time.




File under: Musings and Reflections