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What Should a Therapist Be: Curious!


Photo Credit: Rosalind Bank


Why should a therapist be smart, wise, empathic and CURIOUS?  Because we are dealing with individual lives. Lives that are part of the greater society. Lives that MATTER. Right now the collective is the personal. The political is personal. If we don't get some leadership pronto, we will be in this mess for decades to come. So what does our work mean? It means even if you're exhausted, you follow up, ask the questions, wonder what's going on over in that house. One house has little food. Another has too much. Yesterday I followed up on a hunch with one of the parents of my client. The client had mentioned that things were going poorly at home but didn't go into much detail. When I followed up with the Mom, boy did she give me a mouthfull! It turns out something quite serious was going on with the other step sibling in the home that is impacting everyone. If I hadn't followed up, I would have never known! In another case, a teen was telling me about her new hobby. I asked her to show me her art work and it opened a whole can of insights through her eyes.


Teenagers are stuck in the middle of the greatest economic shift we have seen in a Century. The landscape of school, college, jobs, families are forever changed. Sure some kids will weather the storms to come. Some won't.


I have a client who has been emotionally abused by her parents her whole life. Right when she was scheduled to "launch," the pandemic hit. She is emotionally, physically and mentally stuck now. Like literally. Can't leave an abusive home. Let that sink in.


Other signs that therapy is working: you go deeper, you ask harder questions, you ask them to come up with why things are going well, you ask them to practice it, you wait in the silence, and you help make connections from past to present. You offer perspective and patience. Great phrases that capture this are: 


  • What was that like for you? 

  • I wonder why you're avoiding the deeper issue here? 

  • Do you need time to process this? 

  • Why not practice doing things a new way? 

  • Is it scary to give up being the victim? 

  • I feel upset hearing this, it must be intense for you? 

  • Maybe "fixing" it is not the answer; perhaps you can accept it? 

  • There is no shame in feeling your feelings. 

  • Therapy on zoom/phone is not ideal but it's the best we have right now. 

  • Insurance doesn't dictate our therapy. If they don't want to cover it, perhaps you can pay on your own?

  • There is no stigma in asking for help. You do not have to be crazy to go to therapy. You don't have to share your therapy experience with anyone if you don't want to or are not ready. 

  • If you feel you are not making progress, why don't we talk about it? 


I guess what I'm saying is this is new for all of us. So jump in and maybe something important can grow within in spite of our ever-changing, uncertain environment. 

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