You're The Expert!

I've become aware of the fact that it makes me intensely uncomfortable when clients (or others) say "Well, you're the expert!" with any sincerity (joking is always appreciated.) I'm never quite sure how to respond to that. Especially since there are some days I feel like the expert of NADA!

In part it is the truth- I'm "the expert" on mental health, psychology etc... (assuming there's no one more qualified in the room, then they're the expert! :) ). On the other hand, there's something very important that I'm not the expert on: you.

Television and movies like to portray the mental health field in one of two ways: either a bumbling idiot who commits ethical and legal violations galore, or as the consumate expert on everything and everyone. I'm not sure which is worse honestly. While the first can be excused for dramatic license (I suppose), the second sets up false expectations for therapy. I also think that false expectation of "The Omnipotent Expert" scares a lot of people away from the field, who would benefit greatly.

The reality is this, I'm a therapist, not psychic!  I do not posses magic pills, nor wands. In a perfect world, I would- but unfortunately I'm still waiting on that... What I do posses is experience, knowledge, expertise... but without your input- they may as well be useless. I can only help so far as you are willing to meet me.

As much as it might be fun, I don't socialize at parties "knowing" everything about everyone in seconds of meeting them. Likewise I don't have "The Answer" to your problem within the first hour of meeting you. Like all human relationships, there is a learning curve. And (sadly) I can only apply expertise to what is available to me. Meaning: if you hide something, I can't help you there.

I say this because part of what is important to me, is to demystify the counseling process. Like anything else in life, counseling is a relationship. It takes time to learn one another. It takes time to establish trust. It takes time to learn clients' stories and feelings. And then it takes time for the client to internalize the changes. And maybe that's not magic enough for some, but for me- it feels magical.  To be trusted on this most important issue: a person's very life, is a great honor. It's much less about "expert" and much more about partnership.

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