I’ve noticed that people almost always come to therapy seeking relief from a problem/s, and so the main question on their mind while selecting a therapist tends to be, “Can this therapist help me?” Knowing this is the primary question for would-be clients, we psychologists in private practice tend to gear our websites towards information that we think will help you answer that question. In a lot of cases, this means our websites contain mainly details about our qualifications and clinical training, the interventions we use and the sorts of problems we are trained and experienced in treating, perhaps a picture of ourselves or the therapy room, that sort of thing…
For most people, seeing a therapist is a very significant investment of their time, money, courage and hope, and information of this kind can often help them to decide where to make that initial investment. Indeed, my clients often tell me that my qualifications or specific experience or training was the main reason they sought me out in the first place. However, I have noticed a curious thing about how people get going with therapy, and I’ll put my observation this way: the relevance of my ‘credentials’ to their situation might be why a person chooses to meet me a first time, but it seems to have little direct bearing on whether they decide to see me a second time.
Although my professional knowledge, techniques and skills matter, we are first and foremost social animals. The quality of our connections with the people we meet matters, and after all, the burning question is usually “Can this therapist help me?” and not “Can this therapy help me?”. Almost two decades spent regularly introducing myself to people from all walks of life has taught me that people’s decision to invest in a second booking with me has less to do with my credentials and much more to do with how they encounter and experience me as their potential therapist going forward.
So, if you and I were to meet, what would your experience of me probably be like? Wouldn’t that be important to know too, and lower the chances of you making an ill-advised investment for your specific circumstances?
Above all, what matters to me is that the people I meet in therapy experience me as safe. For this reason, I adhere to the APS Code of Ethics which sets out the standards for professional conduct as a psychologist, I keep at the front of my mind my clients’ rights as described by the APS Charter, I abide by my responsibilities as a health practitioner registered with AHPRA and Medicare, and I keep myself informed of the national and state legislation that applies to psychologists, such as the Child Safe standards. I attend regular trainings in order to keep my practice fresh, and I find actively sharpening my knowledge and skills in these settings so helpful that I always exceed the minimum annual requirements for renewing my various registrations. I also choose to seek regular additional supervision of my own to ensure my practice is appropriate, transparent, and effective, and because the quality of my work can be heavily influenced by my own psychological state, I’m no stranger to maximising my own personal wellness through seeing a therapist as needed too.
When it comes to choosing which clinical interventions to apply in therapy, I am guided by the scientific literature and only use evidence-based psychological strategies that are considered by the profession to be best practice for providing the safest and most effective care. That’s the science of it, and then the artistry lies in using my clinical experiences, training and judgement to modify the recommended interventions so that they respectfully fit a person’s goals, circumstances, boundaries, personal characteristics, resources, supports, and so on. This often-complicated process of using both research-based knowledge and clinical experience to guide therapy towards healing outcomes is referred to in psychology as ‘the scientist-practitioner model’.
The complex interplay of all of those ‘scientist-practitioner model’ variables means that therapy can look completely different from one person, problem, or session to the next – and yet how I am doesn’t change nearly as much. You can expect consistency in my practice irrespective of why and when you come to see me, or which specific psychological interventions I’m using in our sessions, because there is a very stable framework that holds the whole process in place. I refer to this framework as my ‘therapeutic style’; the philosophy, beliefs, assumptions, processes, and intentions that inform my identity as a therapist.
Of the many factors that have shaped my ‘therapeutic style’ into what it is today, none have been more impactful than the work of influential humanist psychologist Carl Rogers. I was drawn to Rogers’ key works early on in my undergraduate studies, and I found his theoretical papers as well as his reflections filled with profound insights into the origins of human suffering and how we as therapists might help relieve it. Rogers’ important observation had been that fully-functioning, psychologically well-adjusted people seemed more able than others to explore, listen to, understand, and accept their own experiences and self more completely. This had radical implications for therapy; if the most self-accepting people tended to be healthiest psychologically, could therapists help a person move towards wellbeing by helping them better identify and accept themselves?
Rogers dedicated his career of research and therapeutic practice (the scientist-practitioner model exemplified!) to understanding the therapeutic conditions that best support people’s movement towards growth and psychological wellness. His research findings and clinical learnings formed the basis of what he called a ‘person-centered approach’ to helping others. In summarising this therapeutic approach in his book “On Becoming a Person” (published in 1961) he wrote, “My aim has been to provide a climate which contains as much of safety, of warmth, of empathic understanding, as I can genuinely find in myself to give”. After some thirty years of studying and practicing in this field, he’d settled on this as the most helpful thing to offer a suffering person! He’d observed that when a person is consistently and authentically received and regarded by a therapist in this way, over time it created an atmosphere that allowed them to more openly explore, discover, and accept their own experience, and ultimately the freedom to move and change in the direction of their true self.
I feel so fortunate to have stumbled upon the person-centered approach of empathy, authenticity, and acceptance at such a formative stage of my professional life. These principles have been the beating heart of my practice for nearly two decades. I trust that for the most part, people encounter me as person-centered right from the get-go, regardless of whether I am meeting them in the role of clinical psychologist, supervisor, trainer, or consultant.
A therapeutic approach that prizes authenticity, acceptance, and empathy probably appealed to me because of its compatibility with who I am outside of work, too. These therapeutic principles fit well with my other personal values and qualities of compassion, integrity, courage, gentleness, curiosity, and reflection. You can expect to interact with those pieces of me throughout our interactions, along with maybe my humour, love of order, creativity, playfulness, preparedness to sit with emotions, and interest in ‘meaning of life’ stuff.
Like you, I am more than the cumulative sum of my education and work experience. Although you might see and hear those aspects of me most easily because we’d be meeting in a professional context, you’d also be invisibly experiencing my values, personality features, formative life experiences, current environmental influences, flaws and limits, and countess other features of mine. This is because even though therapists (rightly) don’t talk about ourselves a great deal in therapy, we also don’t leave who we are out of the therapy process. In sharing more about the most relevant aspects of who I am, my hope is that you now have more complete information at your disposal while you ask yourself that question, “Can this therapist help me?”
I wish you well in your search, and if you have not found the information you’re looking for either here or on the rest of the website, please first read the confidentiality policy and then feel free to contact me with your questions.