Want a Private Practice in the 21st Century? Get a Thick Skin.

Photo courtesy of http://www.rhinos-irf.org/

Many therapists go into the psychotherapy field because we are sensitive to the feelings and behaviors of others.  In the clinical session, this is very important.  Even if you aren’t a Self Psychology-oriented treater, empathic attunement is crucial to understanding your patient and meeting them “where they’re at.”  People often come to therapy hoping for and expecting a corrective emotional experience, and usually that is an unspoken part of the therapy contract.  Patients desire to be understood and heard; therapists strive to understand and listen.  In this, sensitivity to what the other is communicating is key.

This is not always recognized by those outside our profession:  Many times when we are asked what we do, and when we reply that we are therapists, we hear, “Oh I could never do your job, I’m too sensitive.”  Yeah, I can do this job because I’m a really callous asshole.  I don’t ever say that in reply, usually I don’t mention I’m a therapist (if someone asks me what I do I usually leave it at, “I do interiors.”)

However, there is a place for insensitivity in owning a private practice, and that is what I want to talk about today.  Many of you are excited to begin practicing in a Web 2.0 environment.  You have your Twitter account, your professional Facebook presence, etc.  But are you psychologically ready for what comes next?

Recently I did a blog on Gamer-Affirmative therapy.  It got many positive responses that I don’t remember clearly, but one negative one of course stuck with me.  The colleague wrote on a bulletin board, “…it’s just a PR stunt. “Gay affirmative-Transgender affirmative- bla bla bla” Don’t use it…sounds stupid.”


I could get huffy, refer the person to my earlier blog on managing your online presence, but I’m not going to do that.

What’s more, if I have a thick skin, I can look at the comments more objectively, see if they are pointing out something of value to me, something about an idea or plan I hadn’t anticipated.  If they do, good deal!  If they don’t, can I let it bounce off and move on to the next one without ruminating about it too much?

If you are planning on venturing out here with your practice, are you prepared?  Can you take the good with the bad?  Can you shake off the hurtful comments?  Better yet, can you learn from them? Sure we’d like everyone to communicate on the web in a respectful, polite way.  They don’t.  Can you deal with this and move on?  If you find yourself scrolling down to that comment or email and reading it for the umpteenth time and you haven’t learned anything from it or calmed down, you are not dealing with it and moving on.

Last word, don’t rush this:  If you aren’t sure that your idea or practice focus is “ready for prime time,” who can you share it with that you trust will be more compassionate?

Oh, and if you want to donate to the International Rhino Foundation, click on the photo!  🙂