I conducted my first therapy session in 1973 as a peer counselor working in the Student Counseling Center at UCSB. My client was a sophomore coed with typical issues—boyfriend anxieties, academic stress, and confusion over what exactly it meant to be an adult woman in the early seventies. I was young, smart, arrogant, and completely dedicated to being the best therapist I could be, and noticed—even then at the beginning of my career—that if I stayed connected, open, accepting, curious, and flexible, she benefited from our sessions. I studied dozens of therapy systems in those days, and designed and instituted counselor training programs in the student community that are still being implemented in Santa Barbara today. In the subsequent decades I earned my MA, Ph.D, Marriage Family Therapy License, Psychologist License, and various other certificates and accreditations, and continue to this day my study of healers and healing systems. Along the way I’ve observed the development of psychotherapist training in graduate schools—especially the numerous ones in Santa Barbara—and for years was a professor myself at the Santa Barbara Graduate Institute. All this has led me to make some basic conclusions about the practice of therapy. Here are a few of them:
- Good therapists find a natural healing style that fits their interests and gifts, and serve best by discerning and enhancing that natural healing style throughout their careers.
- The bottom line in therapy is that if you—the therapist—are interested, accepting, willing to acknowledge that any perspective you have is just the best one you’ve discovered so far, and that there are always better perspectives for you and your client to unveil, your clients will benefit from your attention.
- Willingness, even eagerness, to keep refining and altering your beliefs in the face of new information—like from your client, other people, research, or new insights—characterizes the therapists who keep growing throughout a lifetime of service.